In the wake of backlash over his transphobic comments, Access Hollywood host Mario Lopez has issued an apology. While appearing on The Candace Owens Show, Lopez made a barrage of controversial statements, condemning parents who embraced their trans children’s gender identity, and noting his own children “don’t kick it with those kids.” Now, he says he’s sorry.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Lopez said:
“The comments I made were ignorant and insensitive, and I now have a deeper understanding of how hurtful they were. I have been and always will be an ardent supporter of the LGBTQ community, and I am going to use this opportunity to better educate myself. Moving forward I will be more informed and thoughtful.”
Time for the celebrity apology breakdown.
To his credit, Lopez does not pull the old “sorry you were offended” gambit. However, he doesn’t actually say “sorry” either. He entreats his audience’s patience by claiming, “I have been and always will be an ardent supporter of the LGBTQ community,” while giving no specifics and sidestepping how that’s not true. (A Scarlett Johansson move.) By attacking parents like Charlize Theron, who publicly announced her embrace of her daughter Jackson’s transness, he is attacking trans kids, a group that is subject to stigma, bullying, physical assault, and harrowing suicide rates. His comments weren’t only ignorant and insensitive, they were dangerous. Which is ironic, considering “dangerous” is how Lopez chose to describe supporting trans kids and how he described hashtags like #BelieveWomen.
And it’s not like Lopez should have been surprised that the topic of trans identity was brought up on The Candace Owens Show. The eponymous conservative commentator is a vocal transphobe. In a thoughtful thread that explored the inaccuracies and dangers of Lopez’s comments, transgender rights activist Parker Molloy showed how Owens has repeatedly attacked the transgender community on her show.
Also, this is the person who was interviewing Lopez, FYI. Not exactly a good-faith discussion on the topic https://t.co/TecvAYOBSF— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) July 31, 2019
This is just what her show is https://t.co/rY0aXMXbac— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) July 31, 2019
On many talk shows, the topics of discussion are approved in advance by the celeb and their team, so that the star isn’t caught off guard by an awkward—and potentially damaging—surprise. We don’t know that that happened here. However, supposed LGBTQA+ ally Lopez knowingly appeared as the subject of a long-form interview with a controversial conservative who has a history of maligning the trans community. And when she called accepting trans kids “a weird trend” and decried parents who do so as virtue-signaling narcissists, Lopez didn’t shy away. He joined Owens, declaring such parental support is “dangerous.”
Call me cynical, but I don’t buy Lopez’s apology.
I can accept that maybe he realizes now his comments came from a place of ignorance, where he assumed that accepting a trans child means some sort of irreversible medical alteration to a 3-year-old’s body as opposed to letting them dress how they want, accepting their preferred pronouns, and maybe a new name. But I suspect his swift turnaround has more to do with Access Hollywood’s access to Hollywood.
When this topic was brought up, Owens specifically targeted Theron and her 7-year-old daughter. So Lopez wasn’t just parent-shaming some vague concept of SJW. He was parent-shaming an A-List movie star who has a lot of friends in the industry where he makes his living playing buddy-buddy to bigger names. That might threaten his access and his show. Then by attacking Theron’s daughter on a public platform, Lopez signaled he’s not a true LGBTQ+ ally. Which might not only give LGBTQ+ celebs like Laverne Cox, Asia Kate Dillon, and Karamo Brown second thoughts before accepting an Access Hollywood interview, but also could mean parents of LGBTQ+ kids—like Marlon Wayans, Sally Field, Marcia Gay Harden, Barbra Streisand, Annette Bening and Warren Beatty—wouldn’t want to appear on Lopez’s show either.
Maybe Lopez is sincerely sorry, despite never actually using the word in his apology statement. (A Louis C.K. move.) Maybe he truly has seen the error in his ways and will better educate himself on trans issues to become an ally to all of the LGBTQ+ community. Or maybe Lopez was motivated by fear of losing his job and what grip on fame he has left. Maybe he was hoping to put a swift end to this conversation before more sites connected his anti-Me Too statements—issued in the same interview with Owens—to the two rape accusations against him from the early ’90s. Maybe it was a bit of all the above.
In any case, an apology—even a piss-poor one—is only the first step. Next, we’ll have to see if Lopez walks the walk. Will he get educated and do a follow-up interview elsewhere to share what he’s learned? Will he shy away from politics altogether and lean into being a peppy and apolitical TV personality? Or will he look at those who championed his ignorance on Twitter and feel like he’s another victim of PC culture gone mad? If so, Lopez might lose a lot of access, but he’ll always have Kevin Hart.
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