Neal Bledsoe and Candace Cameron Bure
Photos by Jim Spellman and Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Great American Family Actor Neal Bledsoe Departs Network After Candace Cameron Bure Fallout

Actor Neal Bledsoe has departed the Great American Family network in a show of support for the LGBTQIA+ community following the latest controversy surrounding actress Candace Cameron Bure. Bledsoe, who appeared in films like The Winter Palace and Christmas at the Drive-In, spoke to Variety, sharing a lengthy statement about his decision to step away from the network. He cut to the heart of the matter with a very plain explanation for his decision.

"I cannot take comfort from, nor will I give refuge to, those who excuse exclusion and promote division in any way, shape, or form," Bledsoe wrote. "Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, and these are mine: the recent comments made by leadership at Great American Family are hurtful, wrong, and reflect an ideology that prioritizes judgment over love. I was raised as a Christian, and believe in the essential message of love and forgiveness. That said, I could never forgive myself for continuing my relationship with a network that actively chooses to exclude the LGBTQIA+ community." He discussed the influence of that same community on him from a young age in the same statement.

"My life wouldn't be where it is today without the love, support, and guidance of the LGBTQIA+ community," Bledsoe wrote. Bledsoe notably avoided mentioning Bure or the comments and behavior that incited his decision to leave the network. "I want to be very clear: my support for the LGBTQIA+ community is unconditional — nothing is worth my silence or their ability to live and love freely in a world that we are lucky enough to share with them," the actor continued.

Former Hallmark Channel star Bure announced her intentions to leave the network in April, which shocked fans at the time, given the dozens of Hallmark films she's appeared in over the years. She now has a multi-picture deal with Great American Family and serves as a creative officer at the network. Her decision to depart Hallmark was essentially a faith-based one. Bure cited her desire to "tell stories that have more meaning and purpose and depth behind them." She made the controversial statement that Great American Family would keep "traditional marriage" at its core. Bledsoe took the opportunity to explain why that rhetoric was a problem in exclusionary terms and why he believed it was "odious" and "baffling."

"Freedoms of speech or religion, or even the freedom to express beliefs that I might vehemently disagree with, are not the issue here," he explained. "This is about someone in an executive position speaking about deliberate exclusion on behalf of an entire network. This is why the phrase 'traditional marriage' is as odious as it is baffling." He also added that most "romantic movies" typically focus on couples meeting and falling in love instead of their weddings and marriages.

Bure isn't the only ex-Hallmark Channel employee to have voiced sentiments inciting unrest among viewers. Her opinions align with Bill Abbott, chief executive at Great American Media, who held the same role at his previous company. He departed the channel following Hallmark's decision to run and pull ads for the wedding company Zola, which showed two brides kissing in their wedding gowns.

Despite Bure's controversial comments regarding "traditional marriage," Abbott has made it clear the network has no plans to include the LGBTQIA+ community in its programming. While the company is "aware of the trends," as Abbott put it, it doesn't seem moved to do anything to act on them at this time — though Abbott did state that "there's no whiteboard that says, 'Yes, this' or 'No, we'll never go here.'" In the meantime, Bledsoe isn't waiting for Abbott to have a change of heart suddenly.

"I hope GAF will change, but until everyone can be represented in their films with pride, my choice is clear," he wrote. " I look forward to working with creators who put no limits on the stories we tell and follow through on their message of values with open arms."

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