Following transgender remarks, Mario Lopez faces critics on the left and right

While the "Extra" host faced backlash for his initial comments, some conservatives are now calling him out for apologizing.
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By Gwen Aviles

Shortly after facing a backlash for saying it’s “dangerous” for parents to support their young transgender children, “Extra” host Mario Lopez now has critics on the right who are angered that he backtracked following controversial remarks.

“The worst thing Mario Lopez did is apologize,” Brandon Tatum, owner of a conservative online clothing shop, wrote in a tweet that received more than 24,000 likes. “Stand by what you said or shut the hell up!!”

During Lopez’s appearance on “The Candace Owens Show” in June, the conservative commentator noted that Lopez’s son has “boyish” interests, and that it struck her as “a weird trend” that some celebrities, like Charlize Theron, are allowing their children to choose their gender identity.

“I’m kind of blown away, too,” Lopez responded. “I’m never one to tell anyone how to parent their kids, obviously, and I think if you come from a place of love, you really can’t go wrong, but at the same time, my God, if you're 3 years old and you’re saying you’re feeling a certain way or you think you’re a boy or a girl or whatever the case may be, I just think it's dangerous as a parent to make that determination."

“It's sort of alarming, and my gosh, I just think about the repercussions later on,” he continued.

After his interview resurfaced on Twitter earlier this week, Lopez faced widespread condemnation from LGBTQ advocacy groups, including national organizations PFLAG and GLAAD.

"Medical and psychological experts, and parents of children who are transgender, have long discredited the ideas that @MarioLopezExtra shared," GLAAD wrote in a statement shared with NBC News and posted on Twitter. "The real dangerous action is when someone with a public platform uses bad science to speak against a vulnerable group of children."

Some people called for the TV personality to be fired from “Extra,” and his Wikipedia page was changed to read: “Mario Lopez Jr. is a transphobic and misogynistic American actor.”

Following the backlash, the “Saved by the Bell” actor apologized Wednesday, stating that his remarks were "ignorant and insensitive" and adding that he now has "a deeper understanding of how hurtful they were."

“I have been and always will be an ardent supporter of the LGBTQ community, and I am going to use this opportunity to better educate myself," Lopez said in a statement emailed to NBC News. "Moving forward I will be more informed and thoughtful.”

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The criticism of Lopez, however, did not end with his apology. Many conservatives are now criticizing the entertainer for caving in to pressure from a “liberal rage mob.”

“For everyone that is disappointed in Mario Lopez’s statement about parents not letting their three year old choose their gender, I’m disappointed that he apologized,” one Twitter user wrote. “Own your opinions.”

Actor Antonio Sabato Jr. made it known that he, unlike Lopez, would “never” cave to “Hollywood Liberals.”

“Let’s make this clear i will never apologize to the Hollywood Liberals about absolutely NOTHING!!” he wrote on Twitter. “You are a bunch of fakes non respectful bunch of individuals. You put fear into people and dictate the outcome of many careers.”

A number of high-profile conservatives, including Donald Trump Jr., came to Lopez’s defense.

“I literally can’t see anything wrong with what Mario Lopez said here that would cause the Outrage Mob to destroy him,” Trump Jr. wrote on Twitter. “He was as reasonable and accepting as anyone could be but because he may have doubts about letting a 3 Year Old make a permanent decision he’s killed?”

Owens defended Lopez and attacked those who criticized his remarks, writing, "Leftists are SICK.”

“PSA: Bullying people into issuing public statements of apology so that they can keep their careers— because they state a FACT—that 3 year olds are not equipped to make life-altering decisions— is why @realDonaldTrump is your President,” Owens wrote.

Rob Smith, an openly gay conservative who has also discussed transgender issues on “The Candace Owens Show,” said he was “disheartened” by Lopez’s apology but understands why he made the decision to issue one.

“As soon as you deviate from the approved script for a moment, then the left gets nasty,” Smith said. “When I saw that the mob was coming for him, I knew it probably wouldn’t take long for him to fold. I just didn’t think it would happen so quickly.”

Smith, however, placed the blame on LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD, which was among several organizations that criticized Lopez’s remarks.

“If someone in Hollywood steps out of line, they organize celebrities and the mob against that individual,” Smith said. “They don’t want an apology. They want your submission.”

Anthony Ramos, GLAAD’s head of talent, said that apologies “should always just be a first step” in these types of situations.

“GLAAD joins others in the community who are calling for Mario Lopez to educate himself about the discrimination and challenges that the transgender community often faces, especially when it comes to transgender youth,” Ramos said in an emailed statement. “Lopez has a huge platform on social media and on television, and it’s important that he knows the facts when transgender issues come up again.”

‘LEMONS INTO LEMONADE’

When in crisis-management mode and facing differing expectations from disparate segments of the political spectrum, it can be a delicate balancing act. But Jonathan Bernstein, president of communications firm Bernstein Crisis Management, said that celebrities, like Lopez, need to prioritize the people who are the most important to them personally and professionally.

“It’s a zero-sum game to please everyone,” Bernstein said. “But I think Lopez can still turn lemons into lemonade by listening to people, stepping out of his ignorance and getting educated on sex and gender.”

Bernstein added that he “couldn’t have written a better script” for Lopez regarding the television personality addressing the initial backlash with an apology.

“There’s nothing new about celebrities making inappropriate comments. A lot of people fumble and make mistakes,” he said. “But these faux pas are preventable if people take an honest look at their biases and educate themselves.”

Christia Brown, a social psychology professor at the University of Kentucky and author of “Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue,” said Lopez’s comments on “The Candace Owens Show” and the sentiment shared by many who are criticizing him for apologizing stem from misconception that allowing a young child to explore their gender identity means “medical intervention.”

“We’re not talking about making permanent changes like surgery and hormones at a young age,” Brown said. “This is different from medical intervention; this is acknowledging that a child knows what they want to wear, what they want to play with and how they want to act. It’s about respecting the gender expression that they are most comfortable with and feel the most naturally in.”

Earlier this month, it was announced that Mario Lopez would join "Access Hollywood" as a co-anchor starting in September. "Access Hollywood" is a syndicated program owned by Comcast-NBC Universal, the parent company of NBC News.

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