Reality T.V. draws in millions of viewers each night. Whether you need a fix of love, hope or ingenious 5th grade thinking, you can be sure you will find something to fit your tastes. But, what happens when one of America’s most watched Reality T.V. shows leads us to believe they are helping a family when in fact only made life worse in their wake. The ABC hit “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” flew into Santa Fe Springs on a whirlwind of hope and dreams and left lawsuits and accusations in its tracks.
The Leomiti family made an honorable choice when they opened their home to five orphaned children living next door to them. The Higgins family lost both of their parents within two months of each other and was left with large amounts of unpaid bills and funeral expenses. The five children ranging in age from mid-teens to early twenties were living in a rented apartment with no food to eat when the Leomiti family decided to take them in. According to the Leomiti’s, “These kids had nowhere to go and we knew as a family we couldn’t let the streets swallow them up.” The producers of the hit T.V. show accepted the application from the Leomiti’s and soon signed contracts for sole rights to their story and contracts to build a house they could house their now 10 person family in. How could such a gift go wrong?
Soon after the home was finished and the Leomiti’s and Higgins’ families moved in, life changed. According to the Higgins’ children, the Leomitis began verbally abusing them on a regular basis. The children claim they were called “stupid” and “lazy” by the Leomiti’s and negative “race-based remarks” about their hair and clothing was used against them in the home. The families only residing in the house together for a couple of weeks before each of the children moved out one after the other. A lawsuit filed against ABC, the Leomiti’s and parent company Walt Disney not only accuses the Leomiti’s of fraud based on the aforementioned statements, but ABC of fraud as well. The Higgins claim they were told the house was to be built for them when in fact the now paid off mortgage is held by the Leomiti’s alone.
It is evident that ABC has managed to earn more than $500 million in advertising revenue from marketing people’s disadvantages. This is not about philanthropy, but rather about making money. The Higgins siblings understand this and want what they claim they were promised.
ABC refused to comment on the lawsuit.