The Husband On Wife Swap Whose On-Air Behavior Got Him In Trouble

The dramatic reality show "Wife Swap" came to the United States in 2004, modeled after a British show of the same name. Originally airing on ABC, a reboot of the classic series came back on Paramount, swapping spouses from two very different families and capturing it all on camera.

The very concept of the show implies conflict and drama, as matriarchs are dropped into families which may be of a different race, social class, or employ very different parenting styles. Though the scenario seems built to end badly, ABC successfully produced seven seasons before the show was rebooted on Paramount, according to Variety. The network's 2019 YouTube trailer announcing the return of the show was met with an enthusiastic 1.2 million views, but Variety broke the news just one year later that "Wife Swap" had been canceled.

Though the show may be a thing of the past, it had long-standing repercussions. For some participants of the show, the uncomfortable conversations didn't stop after the two-week social experiment. Such was the case for Stephen Fowler. 

Fowler hurled nasty comments at his new wife

Stephen Fowler's episode of "Wife Swap" aired in January 2009, as part of the show's fifth season. Fowler told The Noe Valley Voice that while he and his children were "adamantly opposed" to participating, his wife, Renee Stephens, thought a national TV show would be the perfect place to advocate for obesity awareness — a cause near and dear to her heart. So Stephens obliged. 

Her admirable mission would come to feel a little ironic after her husband's behavior onscreen. It was clear that Fowler did not get along with his swapped wife Gayla Long, a mother from a rural Missouri town. The insults began early into the episode, which is memorialized on YouTube. As Long shared her rules for her time with the San Francisco family, Fowler remarked, "I didn't know you could read!" He later told the woman that "her two languages appeared to be bad English and redneck." Another YouTube clip included Fowler calling Long "the most stupid woman [he's] ever met in [his] life." He also famously labeled her "a dumb redneck" and "undereducated, over-opinionated and overweight," per SFGate.

Although "canceling" someone may feel like a fairly recent phenomenon, ABC's 2009 audience was not ready to let Fowler's antics slide. And, as it would turn out, it wasn't just strangers who felt tremendously let down by his behavior. 

Fowler's behavior impacted his family and career

In the immediate aftermath to Stephen Fowler's "Wife Swap" antics, ABC7 News reported intense public backlash toward the family. Their home was egged, and a flier circulated with Fowler's picture, personal contact information, and address. Though Twitter was still in its infancy, the drama even made its way online, with someone launching the now-defunct

He quickly put out a written statement which read in part, "Clearly I behaved like a complete jerk and I am deeply sorry for all the offense I have caused." Still, two years after the airing of the infamous "Long/Stephens-Fowler" episode, Fowler and his family had not escaped the public's ire.

In 2011, Fowler expressed to The Noe Valley Voice that he regretted going on the show. He shared that he lost his position as a chief financial officer at a solar company, and felt that his career was "unequivocally damaged." While he said that he was mostly playing a character, he did admit that he "lost his cool." His real-life wife Renee Stephens took to her now-deleted website to write that Fowler had been "aggressively cruel and insulting on so many levels," and that she wanted him to seek professional help (via The Noe Valley Voice). While it appears that the pair has reconciled, they very nearly took the show's concept to a whole new level.