LOS ANGELES – The Discovery network show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” was canceled after allegations and photographs arose suggesting that star June “Mama June” Shannon was dating her ex-boyfriend Mark McDaniel – a convicted child molester recently released from prison.
But it turns out McDaniel is not the first sex offender Shannon has been linked to.
The father of Shannon’s daughter Jessica, Michael Anthony Ford, was arrested in 2005 and later convicted for the sexual exploitation of a child over the Internet, putting him on the sex offender registry, too. According to Georgia Department of Corrections, he was sentenced to a maximum of four years behind bars and 10 years of probation, but the nature of the criminal offense remains unclear.
According to prison records, he is still behind bars on a separate charge of child abandonment.
The fathers of Shannon’s other children also have criminal records, though not sex related.
Alana’s father, David Michael “Sugar Bear” Thompson, was sentenced to five years for robbing a series of campsites and setting fire to another.
Anna’s father, David Dunn, did time for stealing a handgun and later for stealing a carton of cigarettes.
All of which begs the question, did Discovery do enough to vet Shannon when they gave her and her “Toddlers & Tiaras” star daughter Alana "Honey Boo Boo" their own show in 2012?
Multiple television industry experts tell FOX411 that checks on talent typically never involve close scrutiny on friends and family members, and are usually limited to just the person who will be featured. All that would have come up in Shannon’s case, therefore, is a 2008 arrest for contempt of court, which she later told People magazine originated from a child support issue with her mom.
“Up until very recently, most background checks didn’t even cover any violations or offenses within the military,” one well-placed reality television decision maker told FOX411. “And they were confined to just the United States, so it was found that people with records in other countries were slipping through.”
A basic background check by FOX411 revealed that Shannon and McDaniel were connected via a residential address, along with several other names. McDaniel’s name comes up as an “associated” name listed at a Stockbridge, GA address between 1996 and 2009. The report lists the same address for June, from 2001 through to 2007. But McDaniel was still in prison when both “Toddlers & Tiaras” and “Honey Boo Boo” debuted, in 2009 and 2012 respectively.
Shannon, for her part, vehemently denies having even seen McDaniel since his release from prison, let alone rekindled their romance.
Generally speaking, background checks for reality television subjects are conducted through external agencies and typically vary from around $400 to $1,000 a pop. Potential cast members provide information about the places they have lived and worked, and any red flags are investigated further. In some cases, companies conduct in-person interviews or professional psychiatric evaluations. In the wake of past scandals, these external agencies have complained that they haven’t been afforded enough time to investigate individuals thoroughly.
“Background checks don’t catch everything,” noted Hollywood-based entertainment lawyer Julian Chan. “And then you have the issue of juvenile records, which aren’t shown.”
Discovery also had to abruptly cancel another show, “Sons of Guns,” this year after star Will Hayden was arrested on multiple charges of rape and sexual assault against minors. In this case, Hayden had no prior sex offenses, so Discovery would have had no way of knowing about the alleged crimes except from the victims themselves.
One high-powered reality TV executive says these two recent incidents may spur a big change in how cast and crew are vetted.
“This will force companies to go much deeper and look at who their personalities associate with,” explained the source. “If a child is involved in a show, the entire crew undergoes background checks too. That is likely to become more thorough as well.”
Glen Selig, President and CEO of Selig Multimedia says the public expects in-depth checks to ensure they are not watching shows populated by criminals or those cavorting with convicted child molesters.
“This will certainly cause networks to step up their due diligence,” he said. “People laugh at these shows and get a kick out of the ‘stars’ until the storyline turns painfully serious.”
A representative for TLC and Boo Boo’s production company, Authentic Entertainment, did not respond to a request for further comment.
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