Neal Bledsoe announces departure from Great American Family after Candace Cameron Bure's controversial remarks

VANCOUVER - JUNE 28: Coverage of the CBS Original Holiday Movie MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network.  Pictured: Neal Bledsoe as Nick. (Photo by Bettina Strauss/CBS via Getty Images)
Neal Bledsoe stars in the upcoming CBS Christmas film Must Love Christmas. (Photo: Bettina Strauss/CBS via Getty Images)

She may be considered by some to be the "queen of Christmas movies," but Candace Cameron Bure is currently generating a perfect winter storm of controversy. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, the actress and chief creative officer of the Great American Family cable network remarked that the channel's slate of Christmas movies would focus on "traditional marriage" as opposed to the LGBTQ relationships that are increasingly being seen in holiday fare.

Those comments have already drawn condemnation from celebrities ranging from Hilarie Burton to JoJo Siwa. And now, actor Neal Bledsoe — who has appeared in two GAF holiday movies — has made it clear he's not interested in returning to the network as long as it deliberately seeks to marginalize LGBTQ couples.

“I hope GAF will change, but until everyone can be represented in their films with pride, my choice is clear," Bledsoe said in an extensive exclusive statement provided to Variety. "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."

UNIVERSAL CITY, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 21: Actress Candace Cameron Bure visits Hallmark Channel's
Actress Candace Cameron Bure visits Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family" at Universal Studios Hollywood in October. (Photo: Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

An outspoken conservative, Bure previously headlined holiday movies for the Hallmark Channel, until moving over to GAF in April. "It’s representing faith, which is a really big component," the former Fuller House star told Variety in September about the network's focus. "They are going to move much more forward in the faith content, and having both — still having lots of movies, rom-coms and Christmas movies that don’t involve faith, but also ones that really do."

In the Wall Street Journal interview, Bure and GAF CEO, Bill Abbott, acknowledged that other networks known for their Christmas movies — including Hallmark (which Abbott previously ran), Lifetime and Netflix — had been seeking to diversify the kinds of couples that were given center stage. "[Hallmark] basically is a completely different network than when I started because of the change of leadership," she said, adding: "I think that Great American Family will keep traditional marriage at the core."

In the aftermath of her controversial interview, Bure provided a statement that sought to clarify her remarks. "All of you who know me, know beyond question that I have great love and affection for all people," she wrote. "It absolutely breaks my heart that anyone would ever think I intentionally would want to offend and hurt anyone. It saddens me that the media is often seeking to divide us, even around a subject as comforting and merry as Christmas movies. But, given the toxic climate in our culture right now, I shouldn’t be surprised."

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 05: (L-R) Actors Neal Bledsoe, Ashley Williams, Danica McKellar and Niall Matter attend the New York screening of Hallmark Channel's
From left, at the New York screening of Hallmark Channel's Christmas At Dollywood in December 2019, are Bledsoe, Ashley Williams, Danica McKellar and Niall Matter. (Photo: Jim Spellman/Getty Images)

But that clarification apparently wasn't enough for Bledsoe, who has appeared in GAF movies The Winter Palace and Christmas at the Drive-In. (He will next appear in the CBS holiday movie Must Love Christmas, which premieres on Dec. 11.) "My life wouldn’t be where it is today without the love, support, and guidance of the LGBTQIA+ community," he said in his statement to Variety. "As someone who struggled as a young man with our society’s extremely narrow definition of masculinity, it was their community that provided me with refuge and a guiding light when my life felt lost. And now, if I cannot stand up for that community in their time of need, my debt to them means nothing."

"Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, and these are mine," Bledsoe's emotional statement continued. "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."

Bledsoe closed his statement by announcing that he'd be making a donation to the LGBTQ organization True Colors United, concluding, "If these words have any resonance with you, I hope you will join me."

Must Love Christmas premieres Dec. 11 on CBS