SF Chronicle Sanitizes Stephen Fowler Hateful Elitism on 'Wife Swap'

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past month, then you must know that the most hated man in America is none other than Stephen Fowler of the ABC reality show, "Wife Swap." To get up to speed on Fowler's antics, check out this video of some of the highlights from that show. Among the many "charming" utterances from this British-born San Francisco character are calling the wife from small town Missouri involved in the swap, Gayla Long, a "dumb redneck" and "lower class." In addition, his attitudes reflect a distinct leftwing anti-Americanism. Fowler finds it "humiliating" and "objectionable" to sing the national anthem. He also mocks Gayla Long because her sons want to someday join the military. And all this is just skimming the surface of Fowler's incredible rudeness which included telling his own kids to not even speak to Long.

All this caused a firestorm of anry reaction on the Web including even a StephenFowlerSucks.com blog. However, despite the immediate notoriety of Fowler in the blogosphere, Fowler's hometown newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, neglected to publish a story about their most "distinguished" citizen for weeks. When an article was finally published, the Chronicle neglected to go into any real detail of Fowler's hideous behavior. Check out their highly abridged version of what happened written by Justin Berton and all you can figure out is that Fowler may have been just a bit impolite:

Less than a week after a controversial appearance on the ABC reality television show "Wife Swap," San Francisco resident Stephen Fowler was forced to resign from the boards of two nonprofits, allegedly received e-mailed death threats and stood on the sidelines as his wife, Renee Stephens, issued a public statement condemning his behavior and asking him to get "professional help."

Getting whole new personality for Fowler would be a positive step as well.

Who says reality television isn't real?

Thanks to online TV and easy access to private information, Fowler's 15 minutes of fame have snowballed beyond his control.

Since the Jan. 30 episode in which the Noe Valley resident was filmed verbally demeaning Gayla Long, the Missouri woman assigned to live with his family for two weeks, an anonymous viewer has started a vitriolic Web site, StephenFowlerSucks.com, and Fowler's cell phone number and e-mail and home addresses have been published online. The online clip from the show built so much momentum that last week it hit a mainstream peak, appearing on the front page of Yahoo.com with the headline "Husbands Behaving Badly."

Oh, StephenFowlerSucks.com is vitriolic but Stephen Fowler himself isn't? Interesting to see where the Chronicle is coming from.

Meanwhile, critics of reality TV have questioned whether Fowler's outlandish performance was for the cameras or if the cameras had captured a man at his worst. Many viewers are conscious that such shows are actually highly scripted, filmed in contrived scenarios and appear only after heavy editing.

"I don't know if (producers) asked him to do that or not," said Faith Whitfield, editor of the Web site Reality Roll Call, which covers the genre. "But if in fact he was as intelligent as he said he is, he would've realized it was bad for his career."

Sniff! He was forced to call Gayla Long a "dumb redneck."

In "Wife Swap," families exchange wives for two weeks, usually placing the wife in an extreme lifestyle contrast. The clean-freak mom moves into the house of a slovenly domestician.

In this case, Fowler was cast as the elitist, self-satisfied San Francisco liberal, and his visitor, Long, was the slow-minded Midwesterner. During the episode, Gayla mispronounces the word "agenda," a flub for which Fowler is quick to humiliate her.

He was "cast" as an elitist self-satisfied San Francisco liberal? Seems to me that he fit that role naturally as do many on the Chronicle staff.

He later calls her, "Undereducated, over-opinionated and overweight." 

Fowler called her a lot more than that but you won't find out in this article.

A longtime family friend of the Fowlers, who attended the family's TV viewing party Jan. 30, said Fowler had prepared friends for his appearance by telling them that he'd hammed it up for the cameras and followed the producer's directions to be confrontational.

The friend, who asked that his name be withheld to avoid being caught "in the target zone" that Fowler now finds himself, said the viewing party was awkward at times, marked by silences, but ultimately friends were supportive.

Too bad the "Wife Swap" cameras weren't in that room when Fowler and friends were watching the show. Those awkward silences would have been quite interesting to watch.

"He was definitely playing a character," the friend said. "He just carried a bad choice too far." 

It's not Stephen Fowler's fault! He's not responsible for the utterances that flow from his snarling mouth!

The backlash toward Fowler and his family has ended some promising business relationships, the friend said, leaving the family "overwhelmed and a little stunned by all of this."

"I'm sure they're going to have a tough time putting things back together just to get back to where things were," the friend said. "I think Stephen wishes there were a way to repair this more thoroughly."

Notice how this story is becoming "The Tragedy of Stephen Fowler?" Are we now supposed to send condolence flowers to him?

"This was not reflective of who Stephen really is," the friend said. "I've never heard him say such harsh things to anyone. It was clearly out of character."

Sorry but he was completely in character. And this loathsome character merely reflected what a lot of San Francisco liberals are like which is why the Chronicle was obviously very uncomfortable covering this story. The same elitist attitude that has this type of opinion about people in the "boondocks" such as the Long family:

"And it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

P.J. Gladnick
P.J. Gladnick
P.J. Gladnick is a freelance writer and creator of the DUmmie FUnnies blog.