The chief of the Hallmark Channel’s parent company is stepping down following a furor over the network’s airing of ads depicting a lesbian wedding.
Hallmark Cards announced the departure of Bill Abbott as president and CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, which operates Hallmark’s three family-friendly cable channels, after 11 years in the role.
“I want to thank Bill for his many years of success and contributions to Crown Media and wish him continued success,” Hallmark Cards president and CEO Mike Perry said in a Wednesday statement, adding that he would start searching for Abbott’s replacement.
Abbott’s exit will take effect Friday, according to the Wall Street Journal. Hallmark did not detail the exact reasons for his departure.
The shakeup comes on the heels of the December controversy over commercials for the wedding-planning website Zola that showed two women getting married and kissing at the altar.
Conservative activist group One Million Moms launched a petition urging Hallmark to reconsider broadcasting ads featuring same-sex couples. The group also criticized Abbott’s reported openness to movies with gay characters. Hallmark then pulled the Zola ads, saying the debate over them was “distracting from the purpose of our network.”
But then came a backlash from LGBTQ-rights advocates who cast Hallmark’s move as homophobic. Perry later apologized and said Hallmark would try to get the commercial back on the air.
Crown Media Family Networks is a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, the greeting card giant. Crown Media runs the Hallmark channels’ e-books division and the Hallmark Movies Now streaming service in addition to the cable networks.
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