After being smacked around by a few heavy hitters on social media, the Hallmark Channel has apologized and vowed to reinstate a handful of previously removed LGBTQ-friendly wedding ads on its platform.
Mike Perry, president and CEO of Hallmark Cards, Inc., said Sunday he is “truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment” caused by the decision to pull four Zola wedding ads, which featured a lesbian couple.
“The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused,” he explained. “Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision. Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions, and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are.”
The apology and reversal came after the company, known for its Christmas movies, was criticized by people like Monica Lewinsky, Ellen DeGeneres, and Andy Lassner.
Hallmark’s leaders initially decided to remove the Zola ads after the conservative activist group One Million Moms — which represents a sizable chunk of the network’s target demographic — launched a petition denouncing the commercials as inappropriate for a family friendly channel because of its “promotion of homosexuality.”
The Rev. Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the charity Samaritan’s Purse and the son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, promised in a post to “change the channel” if he’s watching Hallmark “and an ad with gay people kissing comes on.”
“We — and millions of others — have appreciated their wholesome content that was unlike so much of what is on television today,” he wrote. “But the LGBTQ agenda bullies everybody — including the Hallmark Channel.”
The group claimed it spoke with Bill Abbott, president and CEO of Hallmark Channel, who told them the advertisements in question “aired in error.”
Here’s the Zola ad, if you’re curious:
In the wake of the backlash, Hallmark has promised to work alongside the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, to “better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio of brands.” The network will also be “reaching out to Zola to reestablish our partnership and reinstate the commercials.”
“The only difference between the commercials that were flagged and the ones that were approved was that the commercials that did not meet Hallmark’s standards included a lesbian couple kissing,” said Mike Chi, chief marketing officer for Zola. “Hallmark approved a commercial where a heterosexual couple kissed.”
“All kisses, couples and marriages are equal celebrations of love and we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark,” he added.
Before any of this started, the Hallmark Channel went into cleanup mode after Abbott said during a podcast interview in November that the network is “open” to filming movies with lead characters who are gay.
“We’re open to really any type of movie of any type of relationship in any space,” he said on The Hollywood Reporter’s “TV’s Top 5” podcast.
Abbott made the concession after one of his interviewers said to him, “I’m gay; where are the same-sex movies? Have you talked about incorporating stories about same-sex couples at Christmas?”
She went on to complain the Hallmark Channel is often on the TVs at their respective family members’ homes during the holidays and they have not seen any Christmas movies reflecting her lesbian lifestyle.
‘My wife and I are not reflected on anything you guys are doing,” she said. “It would be really cool to broaden out and have our nieces see a version of us on TV, or see a version of anything else besides Christmas with, you know, white leads.”