Chip And Joanna Gaines' Most Controversial Moments Ever

Anyone who watches HGTV on a semi-regular basis has likely become well accustomed to the term 'shiplap' thanks to the overwhelming success of "Fixer Upper." Hosted by real-life couple Chip and Joanna Gaines, the pair have not only repaired the image of their hometown, Waco, Texas, but also gained millions of fans around the world for their American rustic designs.

Premiering in 2013, the couple quickly gained a legion of "Fixer Upper" fans thanks to their fun loving chemistry on-screen and impressive makeovers, often taking the proverbial "worst house on the block" and turning it into a stunning renovation. After five seasons, the pair surprised fans by pulling the plug on the hugely successful HGTV series. That doesn't mean the end of country chic designs. In addition to their Hearth & Hand line with Target and furniture line with Living Spaces, the pair launched the Magnolia Network with Discovery in July 2021. The network will feature several shows about the couple and those in their circle, including a restoration series with their close friend and frequent "Fixer Upper" guest Clint Harp.

Even with the couple's enormous success, the dynamic DIY duo have not been without their rocky moments. Let's break down the biggest controversies of Chip and Joanna Gaines' career. 

Not all Waco residents have been thrilled with the Gaines' transformation of Waco

Prior to the success of "Fixer Upper," the small Texas town of Waco was mostly known for the fatal 51-day standoff in 1993 between the religious sect known as the Branch Davidians and law enforcement, which ended with 76 members of the cult dead. Chip and Joanna Gaines' "Fixer Upper" helped breathe new life into Waco's struggling economy, with tourism and business developments booming following the show's premiere. In fact, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald, the so-called "Magnolia effect" — the term used to describe the ever-sprawling brand's influence on its surroundings — became such a draw that Waco tourism surpassed that of The Alamo. 

Along with the town's success, however, came an increase in real estate taxes and housing prices, which left many local residents struggling to buy and keep homes in the once affordable market. According to a 2020 article by the New York Post, home prices and property taxes in Waco rose at a faster rate than the rest of the country between 2017 and 2019. On top of that, one area realtor told the outlet that approximately 25 percent of new home buyers purchasing through her agency in Waco are from out of state, making it difficult for locals to compete with the rising market.

Despite the criticism, the Gaines consider Waco their "home," and "aren't going anywhere," as Joanna put it in a 2017 tweet.

The Gaines got into a land dispute with a neighbor of their Magnolia Market

As "Fixer Upper" continued to climb in the ratings, many fans began flocking to Waco, Texas to get a taste of the small town charm. Chip and Joanna Gaines began growing their Magnolia Market, which includes a store featuring products made and curated by the couple, as well as a large outdoor space at the foot of the famous Magnolia silos where visitors can enjoy food by local vendors. Once again, residents were split on their appreciation for the attention the Gaines brought to their small town.

In 2016, neighboring Magnolia Market property owner Daron Farmer sued the Gaines for a figure between $200,000 and $1 million dollars. Farmer alleged that amid negotiations with the Gaines on the purchase of Farmer's property, which was located next to Magnolia Market, the Gaines built a gate that partially blocked access to it, making it impossible for Farmer to use the entirety of his empty lot to make money as a parking lot.

The case was dismissed one year later after the Gaines reportedly agreed to buy Farmer's property for just under $1 million.

The backlash to the Gaines' donation to Chip's sister's campaign

In 2021, Chip Gaines' sister, Shannon Braun, clinched a seat as a trustee on the school board in Grapevine-Colleyville, Texas. According to The Dallas Morning News, Braun received a $1,000 donation from Chip and Joanna Gaines.

On her election website site, Braun states that she is concerned "that our district is being swept into the progressive current," with one of her conservative positions being a vehement opposition to critical race theory being taught in classrooms. This became a flashpoint for "Fixer Upper" fans concerned that the Gaines supported a family member who campaigned on a largely debunked, and some would say racially charged wedge issue that became an oddly national obsession. 

The Gaines' support for Braun also confused fans because it ran counter to previous public messages by the couple, including Joanna's candid admission of the difficulty she faced growing up mixed race in the South in her book "Who You Were Made To Be." The Gaines, along with their five children, also previously participated in an episode of Emmanuel Acho's "Uncomfortable Conversations With A Black Man," a chat that sought to open a dialogue about racism in America. On top of that, in since-deleted 2020 statement on the Magnolia website (via CBS19), the Gaines announced that employees would be participating in diversity training and that the company would be donating up to $200,000 to various charities, including the Waco NAACP and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. 

The Gaines have been affiliated with an anti-LGBTA+ church

In November 2016, BuzzFeed released a damning profile on Jimmy Seibert, the pastor of the evangelical Antioch Community Church in Texas, which counts the Gaines as members. Seibert, who interviewed the couple on the church's YouTube channel, has taken a firm stance against gay marriage. In an excerpt from one of his sermon's shared by BuzzFeed, Seibert goes as far as recommending the largely illegal and highly dangerous act of conversion therapy, saying that homosexuality is a sin and that gay people can "change their direction" through prayer. The church's website lists marriage as "the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime."

Chip appeared to address the allegations later that year in a since-deleted blog on pair's personal website (via Today). "Joanna and I have personal convictions," wrote Chip. "We care about you for the simple fact that you are a person, our neighbor on planet earth. It's not about what color your skin is, how much money you have in the bank, your political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, nationality or faith."

In a 2021 profile by The Hollywood Reporter, Joanna became emotional when confronted with the couple's past controversies. Although she didn't address anything specifically, she said "The accusations that get thrown at you, like you're a racist or you don't like people in the LGBTQ community, that's the stuff that really eats my lunch — because it's so far from who we really are." 

They were criticized for their partnership with Target

In withholding any specific public statement against their church's stance on gay marriage, the Gaines unfortunately disappointed some fans and left the door open for viewers with an anti-LGBTQA+ agenda to hook onto the couple and their home renovation series. In 2017, Chip and Joanna Gaines announced a massive partnership deal with Target, which would include selling their exclusive Hearth & Hand line at affordable prices in the national chain.

While many fans were excited to be able to bring some shiplap magic into their own home at reasonable prices, others were vocal on social media about their disappointment in the Gaines partnering with Target, a company that has been vocal in its support for LGBTQA+ employees and customers. This support, which includes inclusivity measures such as allowing "transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity," incited a backlash from religious conservatives, who perhaps interpreted the Gaines' church affiliation with less tolerant views.

The Gaines, as previously mentioned, have denounced anti-LGBTQA+ views in general, but still have not directly addressed comments made by their church's pastor or the inclusivity policies of Target. As of this writing, the Gaines continue to sell their home goods through the retailer.

Chip and Joanna Gaines don't own a TV

Even after filming 79 episodes of their own HGTV series and launching a network packed with new home renovation shows, the Gaines are adamant that they do not own a television. In a move that seems somewhat contrary to how the pair have made their living, Chip and Joanna said a counselor they saw at the beginning of their marriage challenged them to live without a TV and the move stuck. In a 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Joanna admitted that she had recently pushed for a TV, but was overruled by her husband. 

The couple's home is not completely a screen-free zone, though. Joanna did tell Jenna Bush Hager in an interview for Southern Living (via People) that iPads are allowed for their five children, although the devices must be used in a limited capacity. "It's contingent on them doing their chores and homework," said Joanna. "I try hard to make it not the thing they look forward to every day. I don't want them focusing on that."

The EPA fined the Gaines for unsafe removal of lead paint

Many viewers flock to HGTV shows to get tips on how to perform their own home renovations, which is why the Environmental Protection Agency was quick to act when they discovered that Chip and Joanna Gaines were not safely removing lead paint during episodes of "Fixer Upper."

In a 2018 statement on its website, the EPA alleged, "Video footage of Magnolia's renovations of older homes appearing in several seasons of "Fixer Upper" reviewed by EPA did not depict the lead-safe work practices normally required by the [Renovation, Remodeling and Painting Rule]."

In the same statement, the EPA acknowledged that "Magnolia took immediate steps to ensure compliance," which included paying a $40,000 fine set by the agency. The couple also spoke about the dangers of lead-based paint during a March 2018 episode of "Fixer Upper" and outlined steps that homeowners and professionals must take in order to ensure safe removal of the toxin. An additional video on the dangers on lead-based paint was also shared on Chip's Twitter page.

Magnolia Homes even went above and beyond the steps outlined by the EPA. The company donated $160,000 to the supplemental environmental project in Waco, Texas, which helped to ensure that homes, especially those built before 1978 and currently occupied by children, have lead-based paints removed safely by a third-party "abatement" team. Now that's how you properly respond to a controversy.

The Magnolia Homes name was used in a construction scam

The success of the Magnolia Market in Waco, the Hearth & Hand line at Target, Chip and Joanna Gaines' bestselling books, and the demand for the Magnolia Network on Discovery is evidence that fans can't get enough of the home reno duo. Unfortunately, the pair's popularity can sometimes lead to fans getting scammed, as was the case in 2018.

The couple addressed the issue on the Magnolia Market Facebook page, reminding fans that official business ventures would only be announced by the company. According to the Facebook post, several fans had been contacted by people posing as either Chip or Joanna or people who worked for the couple. The scammers posed as the famous couple, who were connecting with fans about a new construction company venture. Asking their fans to "simply not engage" with the scammers, Chip and Joanna used the incident to remind their fans that unless they hear news directly from the couple via their official newsletter or blog, it's likely not true.

A skincare company falsely used Joanna Gaines' name in order to lure customers

We often find ourselves watching "Fixer Upper" and thinking two things. The first is that we would love our home to have the same welcoming aesthetic of all of the Magnolia Homes builds. The second is whether Joanna Gaines has considered launching a skincare line, because anyone who looks that effortlessly stunning while raising five kids, building an empire, and working in a construction zone has to have some great beauty secrets. Unfortunately, a scammer also took notice of Gaines' lack of wrinkles and capitalized on the opportunity by using the Magnolia founder's name.

In 2017, Gaines was forced to take a break from sharing her latest designs and sweet family pics on Instagram to warn her fans about yet another scam. "There have been rumors floating around about me leaving the show to start a skincare/makeup line. I wanted to take a minute to let y'all know that it's simply not true. This is a SCAM," wrote Gaines. "We have nothing to do with it and have been trying to stop it for some time."

For the record, if Joanna Gaines does decide to launch an official beauty line, we'll take two of everything.

Joanna Gaines asked for $150,000 per hour to be part of a deposition over her furniture company

Linda Evangelista once said she wouldn't get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day and even with inflation, it appears the supermodel may have been undervaluing herself. In a 2018 legal case between the Chip and Joanna Gaines' Magnolia Furniture and one of their suppliers, Joanna listed her deposition fee at $150,000 — per hour. That's a lot of shiplap.

The massive fee was uncovered by Blast, which also noted that Gaines was neither a defendant nor a plaintiff in the case between LF Products and Standard Furniture Manufacturing Company, making her massive fee even more shocking. Joanna was asked to be part of the deposition since she was the one who discovered that the materials supplied for the furniture that was to be sold under the Magnolia Furniture name were not of the quality previously agreed upon. Gaines' high hourly fee appeared to be an effort on the Magnolia founder's part to be left out of the deposition, which, according to Blast, she had previously stated she would prefer to be part of only through "written" comments.

Unfortunately for Joanna, a judge later ruled that not only did she have to sit for the deposition in person, she would also not receive her requested hourly rate. Maybe she should have started at $10,000 per day?

Chip Gaines was sued by former business partners

Chip and Joanna Gaines were working on selling and renovating homes in the Waco area before HGTV cameras began rolling, but their level of success was significantly lower pre-major TV deal. Before becoming household names, Chip was working with partners John L. Lewis and Richard L. Clark in the Magnolia Real Estate Company, which employed one agent.

According to a 2017 lawsuit filed by Chip's former partners (via People), the reality star bought out their shares of the company without disclosing that the show he and wife Joanna had been filming had been bought by HGTV. Chip's former partners filed a $1 million lawsuit against him, alleging that he bought their shares in the company for $5,000 without revealing that "Fixer Upper" had been greenlit by HGTV. Both Lewis and Clark told the media that after selling their shares to Chip, they didn't hear from their former partner again. Chip seemingly addressed the lawsuit and his former partner's claims in a tweet in April 2017, writing "Fyi: Ive had the same cell # 15 yrs.. same email for 20 yrs. No one called or emailed? 4 years later "friends" reach out via lawsuit.. humm."

Chip's lawyers argued that his former business partners were aware of the couple's deal with HGTV before selling their shares of Magnolia Realty. The records of the case have been sealed from public viewing, but we do know that in 2020, a Texas District Court judge dismissed Lewis and Clark's lawsuit.

A customer complaint about shipping delays on Magnolia products pushed Chip and Joanna to rethink reality TV

In his 2017 bestselling memoir "Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff," Chip writes that a tweet from a customer alerting the Magnolia owner to a late shipment made him rethink whether the couple was able to handle all the projects they currently had on the go.

Gaines wrote that a customer tweeted him about a wreath he had ordered from the Magnolia line that had yet to arrive after three weeks. "I was up all night dwelling on it," wrote Gaines (via Yahoo! Finance), adding that he was prepared to walk off the set of "Fixer Upper" the following day so that he could go to the Magnolia warehouse and fix the issue himself. Gaines said that the tweet sparked a conversation between him and Joanna, with the pair soon realizing they had taken on too many jobs. 

"Suddenly filming the TV show looked like 'the job' that had seduced me into giving it my precious time that I had always promised would be reserved for my true loves, my family and my business," wrote Gaines. "How had this side gig found its way to competing with the very things that mean more to me than anything else in the world?" Eventually, they decided that their TV show needed to end in order to be able to give their family and their Magnolia furniture and design business the proper attention.

Did Chip and Joanna Gaines leave HGTV over sponsorship deals?

In 2017, Chip and Joanna Gaines announced they would be ending their hit HGTV series after five seasons, leaving fans shocked. The couple made public a statement to People, citing family commitments as the catalyst for ending their hugely successful home renovation show. Then parents to four kids (the family welcomed their fifth son after "Fixer Upper" ended) and filming 11 months of the year, it's understandable that along with overseeing their several businesses under the Magnolia brand, which together accounted for 500 employees at the time, the Gaines needed a break. But it appears the couple may also have been upset by restrictions placed on them by HGTV.

In a 2017 article published by Vanity Fair, an insider at the Scripps Network, the company that owned HGTV, alleged that the couple had been "clashing with" the channel over being able to show their Magnolia brand goods. The source said that because Scripps was not part of the Magnolia Market deal, they refused to allow the couple to feature their products on screen.

We now know that the Gaines have continued to build their TV empire through their own Magnolia Network on Discovery, which bought Scripps in 2018.

The 'Three Little Pigs' home became a hassle for the Gaines

Ken and Kelly Downs were featured on Season 3 of "Fixer Upper" and were excited by the renovations done to their abode, which was nicknamed the "Three Little Pigs" home. Shortly after moving in, the Downs say that they realized their home was located in a busy area of Waco that was near a dance club. The Downs' frustrations with their loud neighborhood reached a boiling point when a drunk driver barreled through their exterior wall, causing major damage. Thankfully, the Downs, who were sleeping at the time of the incident, were unharmed, but they partly blamed the Gaines' for selling them a home in an area they deemed undesirable.

"It's like the Wild West here. There's been a lot of commotion coming from the bars and the store across the street," Kelly Downs told the Waco Tribune-Herald following the car crash. "It's been a problem from the beginning. We've lived here a year and a half and we feel deceived by the city of Waco and Magnolia Realty."

While the Downes may not be happy with their new neighborhood, Country Living noted that the nightclub the couple complained about was already in business before they moved in. As for Magnolia Realty and the Gaines not disclosing the high traffic makeup of the area, the same outlet cited a article that claims it is illegal for realtors to comment on whether a neighborhood is undesirable and thus the onus is on buyers to do their research.