Remember when TLC showed educational content? It literally stands for "The Learning Channel" but none of the stuff they show anymore could qualify as educational, though it is entertaining.
It's a miracle that this network has survived so many scandals, and these are just some of the biggest ones in recent history. We'll start small and work our way up to the biggest ones.
1. Derick Dillard's Controversial Comments
Derick Dillard, husband of Jill Duggar, has always been a little out there. He and his future wife broke one of the biggest Duggar rules, no front hugging, when they first met each other, which should have been a warning sign that bad things were on their way.
Dillard, who is a former accountant, first made waves when he and Jill lied to their fans about their missionary work. Jill's education as a midwife wasn't enough to stop their application to the International Mission Board from getting rejected.
According to the Southern Baptist Convention, the church through which the couple applied for the missionary position, the following requirements need to be met:
"Must complete at least 12 college credit hours comprising three hours each of new testament survey, old testament survey, biblical or systematic theology, as well as elective courses in general ministry."
Derick only has an undergraduate in accounting, and Jill has no post-secondary education at all. Fans took this as misleading, seeing as the couple spent the better part of a year in El Salvador claiming to do missionary work, even asking for money to help support them.
But it was Dillard's comments on TLC's transgendered star, Jazz Jennings, that got him and his wife fired from the network. Jennings, who identifies as a girl but was born a boy, is only 17 years old.
“What an oxymoron... a 'reality' show which follows a non-reality. 'Transgender' is a myth. Gender is not fluid; it's ordained by God," Derick wrote on Twitter in August.
After Jennings tweeted about cyber-bullying, Derick continued his rampage.
"I pity Jazz, 4 those who take advantage of him in order 2 promote their agenda, including the parents who allow these kinds of decisions 2 be made by a child.
It's sad that ppl would use a juvenile this way.
Again, nothing against him, just unfortunate what's on TV these days."
Dillard claims he "never bullied anyone" and "just said [he] didn't agree with what is being propagated on TV."
Jennings, who is 11 years younger than Dillard, chose to take the high road in the whole situation.
"In the face of constant ignorance and hatred I prefer to disregard negative opinions and continue moving forward with love," she wrote on Twitter.
Dillard and his wife were then fired from their family's TV show, Counting On.
Then, of course, there's the Gosselins.
2. Collin Gosselin Goes "Missing"
Jon and Kate Plus 8 used to be the biggest money maker for TLC, but once the couple split, things kept getting worse. TLC tried to keep the show going, renaming it Kate Plus 8, but people stopped caring once they saw all the drama the family was spreading in the media.
Since the split, Kate has continued her streak of blaming Jon for everything. In 2015, she accused her ex-husband of kidnapping their daughter, Hannah. She called the police, saying that he was a drug dealer who was having an "inappropriate" relationship with their daughter. These claims were completely false, of course, but police had to do a full investigation anyways.
It was also revealed that Kate is extremely strict when it comes to her kids seeing their father, and that Jon doesn't have a say at all.
In a past interview, Jon Gosselin says his custody agreement with Kate is pretty unconventional. He apparently only gets to see 4 of his 8 kids at a time, and he never gets to choose which ones. It's all dependent on who Kate decides he gets to see.
“Now all the secrets are coming out because I’m not afraid to say anything,” Jon said.“‘How come you only get four kids?’ Because who I get is who I get. Whoever comes through that gate or gets off that [school] bus is who I get."
Kate Plus 8 ended up getting canceled, but then came back recently with a noticeable omission: Collin Gosselin, one of the sextuplets.
Kate Gosselin announced that Collin was sent away for his "special needs" in 2016, after a long battle with his social and educational development.
“This is a work in progress for him that we’ve sought many specialists help on,” Kate confessed on an episode of Kate Plus 8. “There are changes coming for him. I think it will result in a change of school for him for this upcoming year and beyond that, we’ll see.”
Merry Christmas, everyone! 😂🎄🎁😂 pic.twitter.com/VbsS4OdD5B— Kate Gosselin (@Kateplusmy8) December 25, 2015
“[There’s] a fairly fluid diagnosis of what those needs are," Kate said at the time. "But he needs to learn certain strategies to help him deal with things. This has been a struggle we’ve had for a very long time, and it’s one I’ve dealt with on my own. I’ve felt very alone in this. By the same token, it’s not something that has only impacted me or him — our entire family has been impacted.”
When asked about his son's whereabouts, Jon revealed that Kate didn't even consult him before sending Collin away.
"I have an idea where he is but I don't really know where he is," Jon told ET. "[Kate] says that Collin is in a special school for special needs kids with behavioral problems." However, Jon says he's been told otherwise by law enforcement officials, but he would not clarify what that meant.
"I mean, I ask but she doesn't tell me," Jon said about Collin's current whereabouts. "She doesn't answer any of my texts."
But Jon Gosselin isn't the only TLC star who got left in the dark.
3. "Almost Meri'd" Catfishing A Sister Wife
Sister Wives quickly became one of the most controversial shows on TLC without any real drama surrounding it. The show follows Kody Brown, his four wives, and their 18 children in Utah. They wanted to bring more awareness to polygamist families, but in 2015 they brought more awareness to internet scams.
Meri Brown found herself at the middle of a catfishing scam, after being "emotionally upset" following her divorce from Kody. Of course, it wasn't like the couple had broken up. Meri, Kody's first legal wife, agreed to divorce him so that he could marry one of his other wives, Robyn, and legally adopt her kids.
In what has become an all-too-familiar scam, Meri began chatting with "Sam Cooper" online and fell in love with him. "Sam," a business tycoon in his early 40s, began pubicly flirting with Meri via Twitter, and soon it moved to private conversations on the phone and via text. Meri sent "Sam" "naughty" texts, including an image of her posing "seductively" with a banana.
"Sam" turned out to be a fraud (shocker), and was actually a woman named Jackie, who was an infamous online scammer. Meri, understandably, was crushed. But Jackie insists their love was real...even though she leaked all of Meri's texts and photos online. Then, Jackie went so far as to write a book called "Almost Meri'd."
TLC decided to embrace the scandal, and used it as a plot point on Sister Wives.
“This catfish was just planting things in my head an telling me how horrible my family was and specifically how horrible Kody was,” Meri said on the show. “That was one of the reasons why I didn’t want him around. I was just angry. I’m just angry at him. I just pushed Kody away. I did. He’s not the one I should’ve pushed away.”
But don't forget about the issues "Little People, Big World" has dealt with.
4. Jacob's Rebellion and Audrey's Comments
When Little People, Big World aired, fans got a glimpse into life as little people and how they go about dealing with problems they encounter every day. The Roloff family seemed so happy and unified, living life on their wonderful farm.
But as the seasons went on, things got a little shaky. Matt Roloff, the patriarch, was charged with a DUI in 2003, and in 2014, Amy filed for divorce. The family seemed worn thin, and it was most noticeably hard on Jacob, the youngest child. Jacob dropped out of high school and moved away from home when he was 18 years old, and has spoken out about the show taking advantage of him. He called it "fake and scripted" and said they didn't pay him.
"Man I wish it didn't feel like I was getting fu*ked out of the money from the show that was my childhood right now," he posted on social media.
A little while after that, Audrey Roloff, Jeremy's wife, made headlines when she said that same-sex marriage is not something they support. Jeremy and Audrey started a blog that gave marriage advice, and people noted that they focused exclusively on heterosexual marriages.
“We are not claiming to be a resource for same sex marriages…It is not something we agree with…For us, we are FOR opposite-sex marriages that are striving to give more than average to their marriages. To live out the covenant of marriage every day, and to center their marriage around Christ. That being said, know that our content is not written for same-sex marriages, so to say that we don’t offer advice for that side is accurate.”
Considering TLC stood up for Jazz Jennings by firing Derrick Dillard, it's interesting that they did not release any statements on Audrey Roloff's comments and that the couple still appears on Little People, Big World.
That being said, they had their hands filled with one star dating a registered sex offender.
5. Mama June Dates A Registered Sex Offender
Everyone was so focused on Mama June's weight loss, the seemed to forget about that time she dated a sex offender, and not just any sex offender, but the one who molested her own daughter.
In 2012, the Thompson family rose to fame after Alana Thompson (or Honey Boo Boo) became an internet sensation. The show ran for four seasons, following Honey Boo Boo, Mama June, Pumpkin, Sugar Bear, Chubbs, Chickadee and Kaitlyn...I guess she didn't have a nickname.
The show was abruptly canceled in 2014 when stunning reports came out that Mama June Shannon was dating Mark McDaniel, who had just recently been released from his 10-year prison sentence for molesting children. This was a rebound relationship for Mama June, since she and Sugar Bear had recently split. June and McDaniel had dated in the past, and according to her eldest daughter Anna Marie, McDaniel had molested her when she was just eight years old.
"It's Mama's fault!" Anna told Entertainment Tonight. "She has to live with it. She brung [sic] the past back. I feel betrayed. He did this to me. Why would you let him come around the girls, knowing what he did?"
Mama June also said she didn't totally believe Anna at first, which her daughter corroborated.
"A week or so after it happened, I talked to Mama and she was upset, crying and saying, "I don't believe you, I don't believe you, why would you do this to me?"' she remembered. "And I was like, 'Mama, he did that to me and I can't do anything about it. You were never there to see it. You were always at work.'"
Mama June vehemently denied any and all reports that she was dating McDaniel, even after photos of the two together surfaced, saying she was just helping him out. According to her, McDaniel had leukemia and needed a hand.
"I didn't know how sickly he was. He just got leukemia," said Mama June. "He's got all this stuff wrong with him. After everything everybody has told me, and Anna has told me, I do believe that something happened."
It didn't matter what Mama June said, though, as TLC pulled the plug after the reports surfaced.
That wasn't the last time TLC would have a child molester on their hands...not even close.
6. Josh Duggar And All His Issues
This one isn't a surprise to most people, but we're just trying to ease into the biggest scandal that TLC has dealt with. 2015 was a terrible year for TLC and the Duggar family, as dark secrets from the past came back to haunt them.
It was revealed that Josh Duggar, the eldest Duggar child, had molested five girls when he was 14 years old in 2002. Four of Josh's victims were his sisters Jill, Jessa, Jinger, and Joy-Anna. The Duggar son fondled the breasts and genitals of his sisters. The family was adamant that, at the time, the situation was dealt with properly. From what the world could tell, this meant no co-ed babysitting or hide and seek.
During an interview with Fox News, it seemed that both sisters had moved on from the issue.
“My parents … I can see looking back [that] my parents handled this very well,” Jessa said. “They sent Josh away. They had him get help. When he came back he was a totally different person. He was repentant whenever he left. When he came back, I could see he had made life changes.”
“I was angry at first, I was like, How could this happen?’ ” Jill recalled. “And then, you know, my parents explained to us what happened and then Josh came and asked each of us, individually – I know he asked me to forgive him. And I had to make that choice to forgive him, you know? It wasn’t something that somebody forced, like, ‘Oh, you need to do this.’ You have to make that decision for yourself.”
Josh Duggar released a statement on the allegations, saying he was sorry.
"Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends," the father of five said. "I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God's grace, mercy and redemption."
Some people (for some odd reason) were ready to forgive Josh and move on, but then another scandal rocked the family hard just weeks after the abuse was revealed. After a hacker released information from Ashley Madison, an infidelity website, the world found out that Josh Duggar had spent almost $1,000 on monthly subscriptions to the site.
The subscriptions ran from February 2013 to May 2015, meaning he had been married to his wife, Anna, for five years when Duggar decided to look outside his marriage for attention. It was also five months before the birth of the couple's second child.
Josh released yet another statement, and revealed he would be going to rehab.
“I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife. I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him,” the statement read.
The statement continued: “I brought hurt and a reproach to my family, close friends and the fans of our show with my actions that happened when I was 14-15 years old, and now I have re-broken their trust. The last few years, while publicly stating I was fighting against immorality in our country, I was hiding my own personal failings. As I am learning the hard way, we have the freedom to choose our actions, but we do not get to choose our consequences. I deeply regret all hurt I have caused so many by being such a bad example. I humbly ask for your forgiveness. Please pray for my precious wife Anna and our family during this time.”
After a six-month stay at rehab, Josh reunited with Anna and the couple began marriage counseling. They are still together to this day, though many wonder if Anna is "trapped" in the marriage because of the family's strict views on divorce.
After all this came out, TLC decided it was time to end 19 Kids And Counting.
"After thoughtful consideration, TLC and the Duggar family have decided to not move forward with 19 Kids and Counting. The show will no longer appear on the air," the network said in an official statement, noting that "the recent attention around the Duggars has sparked a critical and important conversation about child protection."
That's when the spin-off, Counting On, came to life. It followed the four sisters who had been molested by Josh and how they continued on with their lives. However, as you already know, that show may be on its last legs.
And now, the biggest scandal TLC has had to deal with...
7. Toby Willis Guilty Of Child Rape
The Willis family may be less known than the Duggars, but that doesn't mean their controversy was any less serious.
The Willis Family, or the Willis Clan, a country-folk band based in Ashland City made up of Toby Willis, his wife, Brenda, and their 12 children, had a show on TLC for two seasons before extreme allegations of child rape against the patriarch.
Toby Willis was arrested in September of 2016, after fleeing Tennessee for Kentucky in order to avoid arrest. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation had began looking into Willis earlier in the year, after becoming aware of information that the Christian father had a sexual encounter with an underage girl 12 years prior. He was originally just arrested on one count of rape, but as the investigation continued, three more charges were added.
Willis plead not guilty to the charges, but his lawyer, Michael Shipman, asked for a continuance, saying that he had "come to question (his client's) competence." He wanted time to complete psychological testing.
Five months after his initial plea, Willis plead guilty to all four counts of child rape. His victims ranged from age three to 12 and were all in Nashville. For his crimes, Willis received 25-year sentences on two rape counts and 40-year sentences on another two counts. All the sentences will run concurrently and will be served in their entirety. Willis was 47 years old at the time of sentencing in 2017, so it's more than likely that he will die in prison.
The Willis family released a statement after the sentencing of Toby:
"The Willis family would like to thank their family, friends and fans for the outpouring of love and support during this most difficult year. Additionally, the Willis family would like to thank the many members of law enforcement for their detailed and comprehensive investigation of this matter. Finally, the family would like to thank the District Attorney's office for their diligence and sensitivity in the handling of this case. The family has remained fully cooperative throughout the investigation. Although the criminal case has concluded with Toby Willis receiving 40 years for the crimes he committed, the impact on the victims will remain much longer. The family is appreciative and grateful that people have respected their need for privacy during this trying time and asks for continued respect as they seek to move forward."
TLC found themselves in a unique situation after The Willis Family scandal broke. The network had already canceled the show in May of 2016, four months before the investigation into Toby began. However, they found themselves dealing with their public image once again, after their third show was hit with child molestation accusations in about two years. Their background checks and overall casting system came into question.
"We are shocked to hear the news,” the network said, after the arrest of Toby Willis.
According to a source inside the network, no one had any idea about Toby's history.
“The family was alerted of the cancellation back in may 2016,” the source said. “The network performed extensive background checks on all the family [members] and found no issues. Obviously this is something they were never aware of."
It's pretty clear that over the years, TLC has dealt with more than their fair share of controversy. However, when you start to focus on "unconventional" families, you have to expect that you'll have to deal with a lot of PR crises. It's still surprising that a network so full of scandal has managed to remain one of the most popular ones on television.