ABC’s Secrets and One Big Lie

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On Sunday March 15, 2015 the ABC network aired a show titled “Secrets and Lies”. This is a 10 part series that takes place on a street in seemingly normal neighborhood. The premise of the show is to solve the murder of a young child while exposing the secrets and the lies of all the inhabitants. The child named Tom, had a family who had been keeping a secret and during this particular episode the secret was revealed. A character named Arthur Fenton played by Michael Beach revealed the secret of this family by mentioning Hemophilia which is a rare bleeding disorder. Arthur Fenton stated that Hemophilia is a “nasty by-product of incest” and also revealed that the child’s parents were half brother and sister.

The implications and false assumptions of this statement deeply affected the entire bleeding disorder community. Over seven million viewers were made aware of this misinformation during that episode. You see, in the United States there are roughly 20,000 people that suffer from Hemophilia. Yes, that is correct 20,000 people. There is an instance of when hemophilia and incest is mentioned in the vast history of this disorder. The incest mention involves Queen Victoria and her son Prince Leupold. In my research I have discovered that this is incorrect. Queen Victoria was a spontaneous mutation of Hemophilia and therefore passed it to her son via the X chromosome.

As many of you may know, some people take the information that they hear on television or read on the internet as truth instead of asking questions or researching, especially if it is something that is not widely understood or new to them. In this case, that didn’t happen at all, instead the misinformation was taken as is.

A concerned parent of a hemophiliac reached out to the ABC network and the star of the show, Mr. Ryan Phillippe the very next day. A personal apology was issued from both parties and then, silence. Mr. Phillippe on that following Tuesday redacted his public apology on the advice of others. One of the Producers of the show tweeted about incest, while another blocked his twitter account.

Inside the community action was occurring but not in a favorable light. Many of the children who suffer daily became even more afraid of going to school because their friends watched the episode. The whole attitude of bullying to watch them bleed increased tenfold. Many families that are new to the community were also shunned even more with whispers and sideways glances.  In many cases children, adults and families that are already stereotyped and stigmatized by the rest of society and in some cases immediate family became completely isolated.

The Bleeding Disorder community began a petition for a video apology from the ABC Network and a clarification of the misinformation. As of this writing the petition has gathered over 5,400 signatures.  We have attempted to spread the word through major news networks, websites, and blogs. Only a few have stood with us to educate and increase awareness.

That following Saturday the same episode was re-aired with the offending line edited out. The implication of the incest was still very much present.  In the same scene as before, the character Arthur Fenton still mentions that the parents of the child are half-brother and sister and that the child had undiagnosed Hemophilia.  The ABC network did not contact anyone within the bleeding disorder community to insure that the edit would be acceptable or relate correct information.

The Bleeding Disorder Community is still waiting for our apology. In a crude way it has been stated many times that had this been any other community that is seeking equal rights and understanding  an apology would have been issued immediately, the writers, producers, directors, etc. would have also apologized and the misinformation would have been corrected.  And yet we wait. . . patiently.

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