Brothers Jason, left, and David Benham
Brothers Jason, left, and David Benham

There has been a lot of discussion about the situation surrounding HGTV’s cancellation of a planned show hosted by anti-gay activists David and Jason Benham. Many, including themselves, have portrayed them as victims of intolerance, but the truth is that cultural standards and norms change over time, and they have found themselves way outside of the mainstream when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. That’s just the reality in 2014, and there are economic consequences for being outside the mainstream, whatever the issue.

The other reality here is that television is a business, and the business is 100% about the audience. Remember, in this case we are talking about the HOME & GARDEN channel. Who do you think watches HGTV? There is a large segment of their audience, gays and straight women (and most other Americans), who would be turned off by the anti-gay fringe activism of the Benham Brothers – even if they are good at home renovation.

Why don’t I have a show on FOX News Channel? While I am a conservative, I am openly gay and have been an outspoken advocate on issues affecting gay people. To be sure, FOX has a lot of talent who support civil marriage for gay couples, and they even have a fair number of gays on air, but hiring a well-known advocate, like me, would be a bridge too far for their executives. 

You see, they know their audience. There is a segment of their audience, mostly the older ones, that would totally freak out if FOX announced the premier of “The Jimmy LaSalvia Show.” I can just see the blog headlines now, “FOX hires radical homosexual activist!” It’s best for FOX to avoid that backlash from their base. That’s just the reality.

It’s not only the reality in television, it’s especially true in politics – even when you are right. The truth is, I’ve had a hard time finding political work since I left GOProud last year. Even though most people agree me on most of the things I’ve worked on in the past, potential employers in politics would just rather just avoid the potential controversy I might bring. They have their own baggage to carry, so why would they want to take on unnecessary issues?

It’s true across the political spectrum. Last July, the ACLU announced that I had been brought on as a consultant to help with their marriage initiative. There was immediate backlash from their liberal constituency. While I have been a longtime supporter and advocate for civil marriage for gay couples, many on the left have objected to my tactics and strategies – and of course my conservatism. (FYI – I haven’t worked for the ACLU since October.)

I remember once hearing my friend Ann Coulter answer a question about employment discrimination. The gay questioner had been discriminated against for being gay. Ann asked him why would he want to work for someone who would do that, then she said something like, “Who do you think is going to hire me after some of the things I’ve said publicly? I have had to fight and make my own way. Sometimes that’s just what you have to do.” That’s not an exact quote, but her point was that we all have obstacles to overcome.

There are many potential obstacles that we face in life – that’s just reality. Some of them we are born with, like the guy who was fired because he happens to be gay, and others arise from things that we say or actions we take, like the situation the Benhams find themselves in. (I have BOTH types of obstacles to deal with!)

Just because we are faced with those types of situations doesn’t mean that the consequences are all negative. There are always opportunities that present themselves because of things that we may see as obstacles. I know that’s been the case for me.

It’s important to make the most of those opportunities. Ann certainly has. She’ll probably never be the CEO of a publicly traded company because shareholders might object, but she’s found a way to make an excellent living saying provocative and sometimes controversial things. Her path is certainly something I look to for inspiration.

Who knows what opportunities are going to present themselves to the Benham Brothers. They have already become well-known spokesmen against homosexuality. Maybe they can find a way to get paid for it. Or maybe they’ll get rich by renovating the buildings owned by anti-gay religious institutions. Who knows…

We should all accept the reality of the negative consequences that our circumstances sometimes bring, and embrace the opportunities that are brought to us as a result. I know that I am focused on making the most of the opportunities I have, rather than playing the victim and dwelling on the negative consequences that I have to deal with.

BTW – “The Jimmy LaSalvia Show” would be awesome!

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