Why Some People Think Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Biggest Scandal Explains How Donald Trump Won
Everybody knows Chip and Joanna Gaines are the darlings of HGTV and favorites of many Americans who tune in to the network. But the adorable couple recently found themselves at the center of a major scandal. A BuzzFeed journalist publicized the anti-gay views of the pastor at the Gaineses’ church. And now, some Americans think the resulting backlash perfectly explains why many people wanted President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.
Chip and Joanna Gaines (and their Texas farmhouse) are a long way away from Donald Trump (and the White House). We’ll admit, the connection may seem a little tenuous. But below, get all the details on how the Gaineses became a potent symbol in a modern American culture war.
1. The Gaineses are devout Christians, but they have kept the specifics of their faith private
As Vox explains, Chip and Joanna Gaines are basically reality TV stars. So when they say they’re devout Christians, many viewers want more details. But when a few details surfaced, a major controversy exploded. Vox reports at the center of the controversy you’ll find “a BuzzFeed article by Kate Aurthur about the Gaineses’ church in Texas, the Antioch Community Church. More specifically, the Gaineses’ pastor, Jimmy Seibert, is against same-sex marriage and supports conversion therapy.”
The article raises two core questions. If Seibert stands against same-sex marriage, do Chip and Joanna stand against it, too? And why hasn’t Fixer Upper ever featured a gay couple? How much Chip and Joanna agree with their pastor remains uncertain. But that hasn’t stopped people from making their own assumptions. As Vox puts it, “The Gaineses have (involuntarily) become a right-wing poster couple in a political culture war” — even though they never gave a definitive statement about their beliefs.
Next: The controversy divided people (just like politics).
2. The controversy divided people — even those who love shiplap and barn doors
Your response to the controversy definitely depended on your own views about religion, politics, and sexuality. Many HGTV fans who accept the LGBT community and embrace same-sex marriage felt disappointed to hear about what Chip and Joanna may or may not believe. They noted that legislators have banned conversion therapy in nine states and in Washington, D.C. And they noted that the American Psychological Association considers conversion therapy and ex-gay ministry dangerous.
People who oppose same-sex marriage and homosexuality also felt disappointed. But their disappointment found a very different target. They objected to the backlash against Chip and Joanna and their church. These HGTV fans noted Christianity has taught that God, not the state, defines marriage. And they reported that God, not man, has labeled homosexuality a sin. They also noted that Christianity has existed for thousands of years.
Next: Many people saw the article as an attack.
3. Many Christians viewed the BuzzFeed post as a liberal attack on Christianity
Here’s where politics enter the picture. As Vox points out, many people responded to the BuzzFeed article. Plenty asserted that “BuzzFeed is a leftist publication and that Christianity is under attack.” Many people generalized that “liberals hate the Christian faith.” And that’s just the beginning of the way the controversy involves politics.
David French, a writer for National Review, reported that to “a certain brand of secular leftist,” viewing homosexuality or same-sex marriage as wrong “marks you as a terrible person no matter any of your other qualities.” Hans Fiene, writing for The Federalist, wrote of the “crusading left” that America should “expect them to trash the reputations of yet another couple guilty of nothing but holding ‘unpopular’ opinions.” He also added, “If this keeps happening for the next four years, expect Trump to win reelection with 65 percent of the popular vote.”
Next: That leads us to our next point.
4. Some cited the article as a failing of the media, which many Americans already distrust
Now, things get even more political. In the fallout after the BuzzFeed article circulated the internet, many cited it as another failing of the media. Plenty of people on both sides of the aisle felt disappointed by BuzzFeed’s choice to publish the article without a response from Chip and Joanna. And many people responding to the story noted that lots of Americans just don’t trust the media. That distrust of the media played a pivotal role in Trump’s election as president of the United States.
As The Atlantic notes, Americans’ trust in the media — the 1 million workers in broadcast television, digital publishing, newspapers, magazines, radio, and books — has fallen steadily. The drop seems most dramatic among “middle-aged Republicans, a key part of the Trump constituency,” The Atlantic explains. Plus, Trump routinely denounces the media as unfair. That only further hammers home the message that Americans should feel wary of the mainstream press.
Next: Many Americans think this about the media, too.
5. Many Americans don’t think neutral objectivity exists anymore
Another important thing to remember about how Americans view the media (including BuzzFeed)? Most don’t believe you can find an unbiased news article. The Atlantic explains, “The increased partisanship of large news outlets might feed a public perception that neutral objectivity doesn’t exist.” That, in turn, fuels the idea that “people are entitled to scream ‘partisanship!’ about any viewpoint that they disagree with.”
To many people, the kind of reporting that BuzzFeed used to talk about Chip and Joanna’s church just exacerbates the problem. Americans routinely see news stories that seem specifically crafted to provoke outrage. That just makes Americans — including Trump — feel more distrustful that any media outlets try to maintain objectivity in their reporting.
Next: Christians also saw this in the controversy.
6. The controversy also contributes to the argument that Christians get shamed for their religion
There’s another reason that some on the right point to the controversy over Chip and Joanna as a clear illustration of why America elected Trump. They say the BuzzFeed article just demonstrates that Christians get publicly shamed for their religion. Then, the argument goes, many Americans reacted to that “shaming culture” by electing Trump.
As The New York Times notes, Trump made the so-called War on Christmas “a pet crusade” on the campaign trail. Trump cast himself as a defender of the Christian holiday. And he played into what the Times characterizes as an “us-versus-them” narrative.
That particular narrative casts Christians as a persecuted minority (never mind that basically all of our presidents have gone to Christian churches). Coverage like the BuzzFeed article only reinforces the belief, among Trump supporters and others, that a culture war has the evangelical identity under siege.
Next: Some people thought the whole thing just proved Donald Trump right.
7. Many Americans felt the controversy just proved Donald Trump right
Lots of people connected the controversy over Chip and Joanna Gaines to what Trump has said about liberals and the “liberal media.” Not everybody responding to the uproar commented on the way politics played into the scandal. But at least a few onlookers felt the controversy BuzzFeed started just proved Trump right.
Vox learned voters who felt traumatized by the politics and policies of the Obama administration were listening when Trump talked about religious liberty. They were also listening when Trump said liberals and the media were out to persecute evangelicals and undermine religious freedoms.
Next: The controversy definitely didn’t do this.
8. The controversy definitely didn’t make people rethink their votes
One thing the controversy over Chip and Joanna’s church definitely didn’t do was convince any Trump voters that they made the wrong choice at the polls. Like any Americans weighing their options during an election year, religious voters had to decide which candidate to bet on — which candidate they thought would champion the “right” issues and prioritize their vision for the country.
Seeing all of the outrage over Chip and Joanna in the headlines likely makes those voters feel they made the right decision — even if it remains to be seen whether Trump keeps the promises he made to those who voted for him.
Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!