And so, perhaps inevitably, the official Jon and Kate backlash has begun. In earnest. As they so often do, Internet bloggers have led the charge, asking tough questions about favoritism by Jon and Kate to some of the kids, the ominous tone behind the couple’s playful on-camera bickering, Kate’s frequent shrewishness, and — most persistently — the sudden disappearance from the show of Kate’s sister-in-law and dutiful babysitter, sweet “Aunt Jodi.” Ground zero for such discussions is Gosselins Without Pity, a site that’s taken on an almost religious zeal in its mission to expose the underbelly of TV’s happiest family. The brickbats are surprisingly well-written and thought-out, and even for the newly initiated, the arguments are hard to refute. The site has surpassed two million page views; posts are made almost daily, with most generating hundreds of comments.
The criticism has spread beyond the ’Net. Kate’s battleax behavior has made her every husband’s nightmare and consequently the butt of pop culture jokes, too. On their syndicated radio show, the notorious Opie & Anthony called her “a capital C” and her marriage “loveless,” as men whose DVRs have been taken over by their wives’ and girlfriends’ obsession with the show lit up the phone lines. The Soup’s Joel McHale can’t seem to get over the way Kate regularly emasculates Jon, calling her “Katezilla” while highlighting a recent episode in which she berates Jon for forgetting to use a coupon, and hypothesizing about a spin-off: Jon Minus Nine. In October, Paul Petersen, a former child actor from The Donna Reed Show who advocates for child stars, delivered a blistering attack while on CNN, arguing that “children need secrets, they need silences.” In California, Jon & Kate Plus 8 as it exists today would be highly illegal, explains Petersen, because of the state’s extensive protections for all kids on camera, scripted or reality. But Pennsylvania doesn’t offer similar protections. TLC has installed studio lighting throughout the Elizabethtown house, illuminating it, a neighbor says, so that “you could see it from space.” And while Kate contends in one episode that the kids have been living with cameras since infancy, “so they don’t think anything of it,” a recent episode showed a close-up of a child-drawn sign reading “Stay owt with camras.”
None of this comes as a surprise to David Rothermel. Owner of a custom cabinetry business in Lancaster County, he was Jon’s boss (and a friend of Jon’s parents) during Kate’s second pregnancy. He’s the guy singled out during Jon and Kate’s speaking engagements as the man who “did not want to insure [Jon] … they let him go.” However, Rothermel says — and supporting documents prove — that Jon Gosselin was fired for other reasons. The state unemployment office ruled that Jon improperly did a side job on company time; furthermore, Rothermel claims that before the babies were even born, Jon was on the phone and the Internet soliciting freebies, boasting openly that he was never going to have to work again. Indeed, the Gosselin family website, Sixgosselins.com, was registered before the babies were born, and later featured a “Prayer List” of wants — a 15-passenger van, “a house that we fit into and can afford … it’s going to literally take a miracle” — along with a “Praise List” with the names of folks and companies and the supplies they’d donated. When the babies were six months old, family members, friends and neighbors got a letter containing the Gosselins’ account number with the electric company, in case anyone felt moved to pay the couple’s bill. (A TLC spokeswoman says the letter came from friends looking to help the Gosselins.)