What will it take for TLC to dump "Honey Boo Boo"?

Accusations fly that the show's controversial mom is dating a sex offender

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published October 23, 2014 4:19PM (EDT)

Honey Boo Boo (Alana Shannon), Mama (June Shannon), and Kaitlyn Shannon.          (TLC)
Honey Boo Boo (Alana Shannon), Mama (June Shannon), and Kaitlyn Shannon. (TLC)

Any day that TLC – the all dysfunction and mental illness, all the time network -- announces that it's reconsidering the future of its flagship train wreck "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" ought to be a good day for civilization. But the reason is just too awful.

Deadline reports that TLC now says that "it’s mulling its options" in the wake of a new TMZ report that the show's matriarch, "Mama June" Shannon, is in a relationship with a convicted child molester. And it gets worse from there. The man, 53-year-old Mark McDaniel, is reportedly an old flame of June's – and had been seeing her at the time of what TMZ says was his 2004 conviction for forcing oral sex on an 8-year-old child related to June. The site says he was released from prison in March, that June has been seeing him over the past several months -- and that she still also has contact with the reported victim. TMZ also posted a photograph of the two together recently in a hotel room. The Daily Mail, meanwhile, has posted McDaniel's Georgia sex offender registry page, which lists his offense as "aggravated child molestation."

A spokesperson for TLC, which wrapped shooting on the show's yet-to-be-aired fourth season in August, told Deadline Thursday, "TLC is not currently in production on 'Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.' We are very concerned about this new information and are reassessing the future of the series."

The show has been controversial for its depiction of the child pageant circuit from its inception, and for generally "making the world a worse place." And its star June sure can pick them -- her former partner Michael Anthony Ford, the father of her elder child Jessica, has served two years for "the sexual exploitation of a child over the Internet," and Honey Boo Boo's father, Mike "Sugar Bear" Thompson, has reportedly also spent time in prison for, among other things, robbery and setting someone on fire. 

Mama June's camp has thus far yet to issue a public response to TMZ's assertions, but perhaps the saddest aspect of the entire tawdry development is how unsurprising it seems. How believable, given the family's public history. And somewhere in all of this is a real little girl, who's been paraded around and exploited by not just her family but a cable network for most of her life. And if her show gets canceled, it likely won't be out of concern for her welfare but a fear that the successful brand has become too tainted.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Mama June Reality Tv Sex Offenders Tlc