Mario Lopez found himself awash in support from conservatives and catching flack from liberals Wednesday after saying he thinks it’s “dangerous” for parents to allow 3-year-olds to make major life decisions about their gender and sexuality.
The backlash was swift enough that he ended up apologizing mere hours later.
The “Extra” TV host and former “Saved by the Bell” actor spoke with interviewer-activist Candace Owens more than a month ago on her series for Prager University, the nonprofit founded by talk-radio host Dennis Prager to promote conservative viewpoints. The contents of that interview surfaced Tuesday in a story from Yahoo Entertainment.
During the show, Owens brought up what she called a “weird trend” in Hollywood of taking kids at their word about their gender identity, citing the case of Charlize Theron and her 7-year-old child, Jackson, as a recent example.
“I’m never one to tell anyone how to parent their kids, obviously,” Lopez said. “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 gonna be a boy.’ Or a girl, whatever the case may be. And it’s sort of alarming and, my gosh, you just think of the repercussions later on.”
But by Wednesday afternoon, Lopez apologized for the insensitivity of his comments.
“The comments I made were ignorant and insensitive, and I now have a deeper understanding of how hurtful they were,” he said in a statement. “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.”
In the interview, speaking from memories of his own childhood and his children’s, he said that at that age “you don’t know anything about sexuality yet. You’re just a kid.”
But the 45-year-old father of three did not argue against supporting an older child regarding those issues.
“I think the formative years is when you start having those discussions and really start making those declarations. It’s way too young for some of these other — I just personally think it’s way too young,” Lopez said.
Prager tweeted a response to the hubbub Wednesday morning, saying, “Evidently it’s now *scandalous* to say that a child probably shouldn’t be making their own life-altering decisions at 3 years old” and including a facepalm emoji. Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro noted, “Mario Lopez said nothing wrong here. Nothing.”
“Queer Eye’s” Karamo Brown, on the other hand, tweeted that Lopez’s comments “disappointed” him.
“I’m disappointed to read @MarioLopezExtra comments about parent’s who support their child’s [openness] about their gender identity. 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,’” Brown wrote.
Meanwhile, Twitter comments from people without blue check marks next to their names ran the gamut of opinions.
Lopez also discussed the #BelieveWomen hashtag, saying blanket statements like that could be risky, because sometimes both men and women do lie. (In 1993, two women accused him of rape. The actor wasn’t charged after prosecutors found a lack of evidence in one case and contradictory witnesses in the other.)
“Unfortunately I think you suffer consequences in this business if you don’t fall in line,” Lopez told Owens. “Now, I’m not screaming from the top of my lungs, ‘I hate Trump,’ and all this, and unless you’re doing that, then you’re not really in the club or celebrated. I just choose not to go there. But I think by not going there, people know.”
Watch the entire 40-minute interview below.