The Fox network, which drew complaints earlier this year for reality shows about gay impostors and a dwarf looking for his bride, has provoked an organized campaign against its newest reality-show creation, "Who's Your Daddy?"
Angered over a reality show they say trivializes the complex feelings surrounding adoption, a loose coalition of adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents has launched a nationwide effort to force Fox to cancel the Jan. 3 broadcast.
In the show, an adult woman adopted as an infant has a chance to win $100,000 if she can correctly choose her biological father from among eight men. If she chooses a fake, he will win the money. Five other father-and-child reunions have been taped but not scheduled.
Critics have deluged the network with e-mails and have requested a sit-down meeting with Fox executives. They say they are contacting advertisers and the show's producers, Hallock & Healy Productions.
A San Francisco adoptee, Ron Morgan, is organizing a Jan. 2 protest outside Fox Television Studios in Los Angeles.
"This is a new low for the Fox network," said David Youtz, president of Families With Children From China, in a letter sent to Fox president Peter Chernin. "It's hard to imagine a more callous kind of exploitation than the treatment of this most private moment as a crude entertainment."
Youtz said the "circus-like atmosphere" of televised reunions "can only be painful for the many adopted persons searching or considering searching for birth parents," as well as birth parents and adoptive parents.
Without having seen the show, most protesters lashed out against the title, the use of the phrase "real dad" in a Fox news release (implying, they say, an adoptive father is not real) and the concept of rewarding adoptees with large amounts of cash for selecting the correct birth parent.
Fox executives in Los Angeles issued a statement Tuesday:
"It is not the producers' or network's intention to offend anyone, but clearly the title of this special is attention-grabbing -- possibly contributing to controversy. It is not indicative, however, of the special's actual content. The willing and informed participants are some of the tens of millions of adopted Americans unable to reunite with their biological parent(s). They seized the opportunity to participate, and the result is compelling.
"It is also important to note that this special, in no way, detracts from the relationship between adoptive parents and their children. In fact, most participants clearly state that they consider their adoptive parent(s) to be their 'real parents,' but they are curious about their family of origin."
Fox executives declined to say whether they would be willing to meet with representatives of the adoptive community, or reconsider the scheduled Jan. 3 airing of "Who's Your Daddy?"