Mario Lopez may be longing for the days when he played a teen heartthrob on '90s kiddie comedy Saved by the Bell. The former child star, now 45, recently ditched his job as co-host on Extra for competitor Access Hollywood, where he's expected to be on-air in September. But he's now under fire for controversial comments he made about the parents of transgender children earlier this summer that flew under the radar until now, and that could cause his new employer to retreat.
"A lot of weird trends come out of Hollywood…and one of the weirder ones, for me at least to try to process, is this new trend where celebrities are coming out—and I know Charlize Theron did this a few weeks ago—and saying that their child is picking their gender," conservative talk show host Candace Owens told Lopez during a June interview on her program, in a clip that resurfaced on Tuesday. "And this is strange to me… and they say, 'Oh, I looked at my child, my child was swimming in a bathtub and looked up and said, 'Mommy, I'm a boy."
Owens was referring to an interview published the previous month by The Daily Mail in which Theron explained why her child, 7-year-old Jackson, was born male but was being raised as a girl. "[My kids] were born who they are and exactly where in the world both of them get to find themselves as they grow up, and who they want to be, is not for me to decide," she said.
Lopez told Owens that he just didn't get it.
"I am trying to understand it myself, and please don't lump me into that whole [group]," he said. "I'm kind of blown away too. Look, I'm never one to tell anyone how to parent their kids obviously…I would say if you come from a place of love, you really can't go wrong, but at the same time, my God, if you're 3 years old and you're saying you're feeling a certain way or you think you're a boy or a girl, whatever the case may be, I just think it's dangerous as a parent to make that determination then, Ok, well then you're going to be a boy or a girl, whatever the case may be and it's sort of alarming and my gosh, I just think about the repercussions later on."
Perhaps catching himself slightly, he added, “I personally think it’s just way too young to start making these… I know other parents who have certain parenting styles that I necessarily don’t agree with, but I do know they’re good people and they’re coming from a good place."
Reps for Lopez issued a public apology on Wednesday.
“The comments I made were ignorant and insensitive, and I now have a deeper understanding of how hurtful they were,” reads the statement sent to PEOPLE and other media outlets. “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.”
Two stars of Queer Eye were among the prominent public voices critiquing Lopez's comments when they went viral on Tuesday.
"I'm disappointed to read @MarioLopezExtra comments about parent's who support their child's openes [sic] about their gender identity," tweeted Karamo Brown. "As a social worker I am trained to identify abuse or neglect of a child. Healthy & safe dialogue w/ kids is neither abusive, neglectful or 'dangerous.'"
He stopped short of suggesting that Lopez be blacklisted in a second tweet: "I don't think @MarioLopezExtra should be 'canceled,'" he wrote. "But I do believe he should be given the opportunity to learn why his comments are harmful to trans youth and their parents. Mario, I'm ready to talk when you are."
Brown's co-star Jonathan Van Ness tweeted, "If you’re not raising a child who is part of the LGBTQ+ community you should really be quiet. You don’t need to understand what you do not know. You both need to do better, your causal transphobia is par for the course. Christianity says leave judgment to God."
Radar Online claims that Lopez's team "begged" him to issue the public apology on Wednesday. Knowing how to support the transgender community includes knowing what to say as well as what not to say, and Vanderpump Rules alum Billie Lee, a transgender woman, has some great advice.
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