San Francisco residents Stephen Fowler, a venture capitalist, and Renee Stephens, a weight-loss therapist, disastrously appeared on ABC's Wife Swap, confirming every stereotype one might have about the city's precious, spoiled environmentalists. Boy, they're sorry!
A week ago, Fowler and Stephens appeared on the ABC reality program, where two families trade wives for two weeks. Stephens went to live with Alan Long, the mayor of a rural Missouri town, who sent his wife, Gayla, to the Victorian manse of the Fowler-Stephens family in Noe Valley, a wealthy San Francisco enclave of earth-loving millionaires.
Normally, this would just be just another fish-out-of-water cultural clash of the sort Wife Swap peddles all the time, with an everyone-learns-and-everyone-hugs happy ending. The rural Midwestern family loves paintball and ATVs! The rich San Francisco clan favors piano lessons, organic breakfast cereal, and energy exchange! Hahaha look at them try to get along!
Except that Fowler, a British expatriate, didn't even try to get along. He was phenomenally cruel to Gayla, giving her the silent treatment for much of her stay. When he did talk to her, he managed to insult, among dozens of groups, fat people-the fat people who pay his wife money to make them not fat. (His wife suggested that she looked down on people who didn't have advanced degrees and was not proud — shades of Michelle Obama! — to be an American. But her behavior was so much better than her husband's that it hardly drew notice.) "Agenda, that's a big word for you," Fowler said as Gayla stumbled through a set of rules she sought to impose on his family. "The most boorish and abusive of husbands ever," concluded a blogger on Reality Roll Call.
The fallout: Internet message-board commenters went even crazier than usual, posting Fowler's home address, which in turn prompted him to threaten to sue the website where it had appeared. Someone launched stephenfowlersucks.com. On Friday, Fowler finally apologized publicly (on his wife's weight-loss blog) and resigned from the boards of two environmental nonprofits on which he served. And his wife apologized, too, stating that he needed "professional help." We want to know who's apologizing to the kids.
A sample of the abuse Fowler dished out on Gayla Long: