The Discovery Channel is supposed to be about discovery, isn’t it? It seems these days all we’re really discovering are all the new scandals we haven’t heard about yet. Discovery Communications, which owns Discovery Channel, TLC, and Animal Planet, is no stranger to controversy whether it’s misleading their audience or something much, much worse.
Should The Discovery Channel Find a Better Way to Vet Their Reality Stars?
The network has reality shows literally riddled with convicted criminals – some of whom are pedophiles and felons. Though this news usually leads to a show’s cancellation, it’s impossible not to wonder why the Discovery Channel seems like such a magnet for this kind of behavior.
Click through to read about the scandals that happened under the watchful eye of The Discovery Channel.
American Guns Drums up Major Controversy after Cancellation
Discovery cashed in on America’s firearms obsession with their popular show American Guns. The show revolved around the Wyatt family, who owned a custom gun shop called Gunsmoke Guns in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. The show was met with a ton of controversy, but not for the reasons you would think.
American Guns aired its last episode in 2012, even though both seasons were met with really favorable ratings. It was believed that gun-related tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting were the reason Discovery pulled the plug; however, the network insisted that it wasn’t being canceled. They simply chose to not renew it for another season and had no plans to air reruns.
Gunsmoke Guns Was Robbed after American Guns’ Cancellation
Right after American Guns was canceled, the Wheat Ridge shop Gunsmoke Guns was robbed through a hole in the ceiling (if you’re a high-profile business, you should reinforce your roof or you’re just asking for a situation in every middle-of-the-night cartoon robbery).
On February 27, 2013, a thief broke into the shop by cutting a hole in the roof. Though cops weren’t sure if they acted alone or with accomplices, they made away with 12 handguns and three rifles. Most news sources reported that the robbery was unfortunate, but no one could possibly be prepared for what was going to happen to the Wyatt family in the coming weeks.
Richard Wyatt Never Actually Had a Gun License
As it turns out, Richard Wyatt wasn’t authorized to sell guns. In the middle of filming American Guns in 2012, Wyatt lost his Federal Firearms License for violations of federal laws and regulations (though it was never specified which laws and regulations he violated). He continued selling guns at Gunsmoke through a straw Federal Firearms license that belonged to someone else.
He was accused of changing the address of a store called Triggers to the address of Gunsmoke, even though he didn’t actually own Triggers. When someone bought a gun at Gunsmoke, they were sent to Triggers to fill out paperwork. To him, this was a seeming loophole, but he was indicted in 2016 for conspiring with others to sell guns without a license.
Richard Wyatt Got in Major Trouble with the IRS
About nine days after Gunsmoke Guns was robbed in the middle of the night, IRS agents raided the store as part of an ongoing financial investigation for tax evasion. This began in 2010 when an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives got wind of the fact that Wyatt may be unlawfully possessing six fully automatic weapons. When agents looked more closely into the shop’s records they found some things that didn’t add up.
Wyatt was charged with failing to report $1.1 million in personal income between 2009 and 2012. He was also charged with filing a false tax return. Wyatt was found guilty on 10 felony counts including one count of conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and nine tax fraud and evasion charges.
American Guns Also Dealt with Pawn-Happy Criminals
Despite all the shady stuff that happened with American Guns’ patriarch Richard Wyatt, the show also contributed to the sale of a stolen firearm. In the last episode of the first season, a man named Wylie Newton tried to sell an antique Colt Pistol worth $20,000.
This gun had been stolen from private New Mexico Museum, and Newton almost got away with it, if only he didn’t try to sell stolen goods on TV. Someone who was familiar with the robbery was watching the show and ended up recognizing the missing gun. Authorities were alerted, and Newton was charged.
Man Vs. Wild’s Bear Grylls Was Fired from Discovery Channel
There’s not a whole lot Bear Grylls won’t do (he even drank his own urine to survive), but he ended up getting fired from Discovery because he wouldn’t put in the work beyond his Man Vs. Wild. Apparently, Grylls was totally unwilling to participate in two of the network’s upcoming projects.
Rather than letting him stick to the show that made him famous, they decided to fire for being unruly. Man Vs. Wild was on the air for six seasons and even featured an episode with Barack Obama before contract disputes caused the whole thing to implode.
Sons Of Guns Was Canceled after Star Was Arrested for Raping Two Minors
What is it about Discovery Channel’s gun-related shows? Sons of Guns, which centers on Red Jacket Firearms, a company that sells and manufactures custom guns, was canceled after its star Will Hayed was arrested for the rape of two young girls when they were 11 and 13 years old.
One of these girls was his eldest daughter. Hayden was found guilty on two counts of aggravated rape and one count of forcible rape. At the time of the conviction, he still faced additional rape charges in Livingston Parish. Hayden denied the allegations when he testified and was later sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Will Hayden Was Also Accused of Molesting Many Young Girls in His Family
During a tell-all Dr. Phil episode, Will Hayden’s daughter Stephanie Hayden Ford spoke about the things her father had done. She claimed her father had been sexually inappropriate with her when she was only 12 years old (which later gave him a life sentence).
She also claimed that he sexually assaulted her cousin and friend. The most disturbing part was that Ford said her father sexually abused her 12-year-old sister. According to the reality TV star, the initial allegations that lead to her father’s sentence only came after a personal assistant caught him undressed and passionately kissing his youngest daughter.
Sons of Guns’ Kim Ford and Stephanie Hayden Were Also Arrested
The Hayden family appears to be full of hardened criminals and Discovery dodged a bullet by canceling Sons of Guns. After her father was arrested for his disgusting crimes, Stephanie Hayden Ford and her husband Kris Ford were arrested on one count of cruelty to juveniles.
Allegedly, the couple hit their nine-year-old son so hard with a belt on his lower backside that he retained bruises. Though Kris was the one who performed the act, Stephanie was taken into custody because their son said she was in the room at the time of the beating.
The Alaskan Bush People Aren’t Even Alaskan
Alaskan Bush People has been the subject of a lot of Discovery Channel controversy because people aren’t sure how much of the show is actually a lie. It turns out that the Alaskan Bush People aren’t even really Alaskan and their former home was just 10 miles away from the center of town.
All six of the family members – Billy, Bear, Bam Bam, Noah, Matthew, and Gabriel – were issued citations about making false statements about their residency on hunting and fishing licenses. Apparently, the very people who claim to have been born and raised in the wild were living in Colorado and Texas. They apparently bought their licenses shortly after moving to Alaska in 2012.
Alaskan Bush People Pleaded Guilty to Fraud
The crew from Alaskan Bush People just can’t stop lying about living in Alaska. In 2015, the Brown family confessed that they lied about living in Alaska to receive government checks. Both Billy Brown and Joshua “Bam Bam” Brown pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree unsworn falsification.
The Browns allegedly claimed to live in southeastern Alaska, which has the Alaskan Permanent Fund Division and gives full-time residents thousands of dollars to remain in the state. Billy Brown admitted that he collected $7,956 from the state of Alaska and Bam Bam collected $1,174. They were both sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Cody Lundin Insisted That His Dual Survival Co-Host Tried to Kill Him
Discovery’s survival reality show Duel Survival was met with controversy when host Cody Lundin filed a lawsuit against the network. The suit claimed that co-host Joe Teti threatened to kill him while filming the show. According to Lundin, producers made it look like he was losing his mind during filming, but what was really happening was that Teti was waving an ice ax around threatening to bury him on a mountain in Norway.
This was the second time Lundin was threatened by his co-host who threatened to impale him with a spear when they were filming in Hawaii. Lundin also alleged that his co-host showed him pictures of people he killed while he was in the CIA.
Naked and Afraid Crew Members Actually Give the Contestants Help
Discovery’s popular survival show Naked And Afraid was met with much controversy when contestants alleged that the show was pretty much fake. In the show, a man and a woman survivalist are put in the wilderness for 21 days and forced to figure out how to survive. If the crew helps out contestants, that defeats the purpose of the whole thing.
According to the Daily Mail, the show allegedly fed a female contestant bread, rice, and baby food when she got sick after eating a turtle. She also received two separate IV drips so she wouldn’t be dehydrated. Obviously, the contestant needed the help because her life was at risk; however, The Daily Mail alleged that it was completely dishonest to not say help was provided because of her life-threatening circumstance.
A Naked and Afraid Contestant Lashed out over Scripted Segments
In the Season 3 finale of Naked and Afraid, Honora Bowen competed alongside Matt Struzel in Brazil. Matt completed the challenge, but Honora tapped out after suffering from heat exhaustion. Honora took to her blog to completely shatter our view of the episode. She claimed she was coerced into starting an argument with Struzel during filming in order to make it more dramatic.
She also said that producers coached her to make statements about her background and her relationship with her father that weren’t true. She didn’t tap because of heat exhaustion. She developed a bladder issue and producers wouldn’t let her leave though she asked to tap out several times. She ended up faking medical issue to get off the show.
Discovery Channel Got Flak for a Fake Shark Week Documentary
In 2013, The Discovery Channel got some major flak when they aired a fake documentary to launch Shark Week. The documentary titled “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives” was about a 70-foot prehistoric shark that somehow was found to be still alive.
Megalodons are thought to have existed between one and two million years ago, and though the documentary was obviously a ruse, people took to the Internet to complain about the hoax. A whopping 4.8 million users tuned into the show and the special was the highest-rated telecast in Shark Week’s 26-year history (so we’re guessing that Discovery doesn’t care one bit).
Viewers Were Outraged When Eaten Alive Turned out to Be Anticlimactic
Misleading advertising is a real thing, and it’s a serious offense. The Federal Trade Commission has guidelines for this very reason. When Discovery Channel aired their special, Eaten Alive, in which Paul Rosolie tries to get eaten alive by an 180-foot anaconda, fans were outraged.
The network had been touting for months that this guy would actually get eaten, but after antagonizing the snake for a couple of hours, Rosolie had to be rescued by his team. Apparently, the snake swallowed his head, and he thought his arm was going to be broken. The backlash lost Discovery Channel some major credibility.
PETA Spoke out Against Discovery Channel for Eaten Alive
Among leagues of angry people on the Internet claiming to be misled by Discovery Channel’s advertising, PETA voiced major concern. Rosolie, who wore a special carbon fiber suit an the oxygen supplying helmet was given free rein to torment a snake in exchange for TV ratings. And what would have happened if he was swallowed alive? They’d probably have to kill the snake to get him out.
“Shame on this pseudo ‘wildlife expert’ for tormenting this animal and shame on the Discovery Channel for giving him the incentive to do so,” PETA said in a statement.
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Was Taken off the Air after Mama June Dated a Child Molester
TLC, which is owned by Discovery, saw some major controversy with their show Honey Boo Boo. The show was abruptly canceled when Mama June began dating a convicted sex offender.
Mark McDaniel, Mama June’s then boy-toy, spent 10 years in jail for molesting June’s daughter, Anna “Chickadee” Cardwell. Cardwell accused McDaniel of repeatedly sexually abusing her in 2002 while her younger, three-year-old sister was in the bed with her. The show was canceled when McDaniel resurfaced in the girls’ lives, and Mama June issued an apology only after the couple broke up.
Ann “Chickadee” Cardwell Sued Mama June for Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Money
Though Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was taken off the air, the family still found their way into headlines when Chickadee sued Mama June. The reality TV star sued her mother and the network for allegedly withholding $201,000 in profits from their series.
Cardwell claimed that her 2-year-old daughter Kaitlyn was also owed nearly $100,000. According to TMZ, the family was paid $22,500 per episode, which was meant to be split amongst the kids. Mama June claimed all the money was directly deposited and she never saw a dime. TLC didn’t comment.