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Flip: SunTrust reinstates listings with Benham Real Estate

Move comes after third-party vendor communication

free speech

(Note: Updated 7:20 p.m. ET)

Late Friday afternoon SunTrust Bank reinstated its listings with the company owned by David and Jason Benham.

The Daily Caller reported this from SunTrust spokeswoman Beth McKenna: "We clarified our policies with our vendor and they have reinstated the listings with Benham Real Estate."

(Note: Updated 2:39 p.m. ET to add SunTrust's statement)

SunTrust Bank has pulled all of its listed properties with David and Jason Benham, the celebrity home renovators/flippers and owners of Benham Real Estate.

The brothers say it is because of their outspoken Christian position. SunTrust, however, denies this in an email to HousingWire.

"SunTrust supports the rights of all Americans to fully exercise their freedoms granted under the Constitution, including those with respect to free speech and freedom of religion," said Sue Mallino, corporate communications officer at SunTrust. "Mid-2013, we consolidated the management of certain residential assets with a third party vendor, which has the relationship with Benham.  While we do not publicly comment on specific vendor relationships, we don’t make choices on suppliers nor base business decisions on political factors, nor do we direct our third party vendors to do so.

"The characterization in the media with respect to this matter is inaccurate.   We are contacting our third party supplier who works with Benham to clarify our policies," Mallino said.

The Benham’s have recently been at the center of controversy after HGTV dropped the planned program “Flip it Forward” before it ever saw any airtime, after the network decided comments from one of the brothers was anti-gay and anti-abortion.

The brothers ran afoul of the network after the politically leftist website Right Wing Watch published a post about the pair, labeling David Benham as an "anti-gay, anti-choice extremist" for leading a prayer rally in 2012 outside of the Democratic National Convention held in Charlotte, N.C.

This move by SunTrust came without warning on May 15, 2014, the Benhams said in a press statement. They say that they and some of their franchisees have worked for years with SunTrust, holding "preferred broker" status. 

David Benham said in a written statement this is an ongoing campaign to silence opponents of abortion and gay rights.

"We were caught off-guard with this one. Keeping us off television wasn't enough, now this agenda to silence wants us out of the marketplace," he said.

The statement continued that the Benhams recognized SunTrust's right to hire or fire any real estate broker they choose, but do not support the decision of SunTrust to fire independent franchisees that are associated with the Benhams, many of whom do not hold the same beliefs the brothers do.

"As Americans we find ourselves at a crossroads and are forced with a decision to either stand up or sit down. Evidently, SunTrust’s longstanding commitment to diversity must not include our historic Christian values," David Benham said.

Jason Benham added, "If our faith costs us our HGTV show and our business, then so be it."  

Benham Real Estate is a full service real estate company that specializes in selling bank owned properties. The real estate division, Benham REO Group, has about 100 offices in 35 states across the US.

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