It appeared for a moment on Friday afternoon that SunTrust Banks had cut ties with David and Jason Benham, the two brothers who recently lost their reality TV show after activists protested their Christian views on abortion and gay marriage.
The Benhams initially said Friday that SunTrust had “pulled all of its listed properties with the Benham brothers’ bank-owned property business, which includes several [independent] franchisees across four states," the Daily Caller reported.
The bank responded quickly to criticism and told the Daily Caller: "We clarified our policies with our vendor and they have reinstated the listings with Benham Real Estate."
The bank’s initial decision to distance itself from the brothers came just weeks after HGTV decided to ax their reality TV show after activists decried their outspoken Christian beliefs.
“We were caught off-guard with this one,” David Benham told the Daily Caller, referring to the bank’s initial decision. “Keeping us off television wasn’t enough, now this agenda to silence wants us out of the marketplace.”
There was no “explanation from SunTrust and [it] took place over a 15-minute period” on Thursday afternoon, the brothers said.
The move seemed odd, they added, considering the fact that they’ve enjoyed a “mutually productive working relationship with SunTrust for many years.”
In fact, prior to their conversation with the bank on Thursday, the Benhams enjoyed a “preferred broker” status with SunTrust.
The brothers said they recognize the rights of private businesses like SunTrust to “hire or fire any real estate broker they choose,” but they “do not support the decision” to fire the independent franchisees.
“As Americans we find ourselves at a crossroads and are forced with a decision to either stand up or sit down,” David Benham said. “Evidently, SunTrust’s longstanding commitment to diversity must not include our historic Christian values.”
SunTrust had initially declined to comment on its reason for backing away from the brothers.
“We continuously review our supplier relationships and changes to the list of companies we rely on for services is a natural part of our business, however we do not publicly comment on specific vender relationships,” a bank representative first told the Daily Caller.
But in a memo obtained by the Daily Caller, SunTrust’s third-party asset management company reportedly told one franchisee, Joel Morimanno of Benham Real Estate in Florida, the following: “Unfortunately the seller (SunTrust) is asking for this property to be re-assigned. This was the direct clients (SunTrust) request. I really appreciate all your efforts on this property…This one is out of our control. It is really nothing you did.”
This struck Morimanno as odd.
“It is highly unusual for a big asset manager to reassign assets without cause. I even offered to waive my commissions on the sale of the property but they refused and said they were required to reassign the property,” he said.
The brothers said they have no plans to dial back their rhetoric.
“If our faith costs us our HGTV show and our business, then so be it,” Jason Benham said Friday.
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