Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman have gone AWOL. The two actresses at the centre of the college admissions scandal have posted their bail ($1 million and $250,000, respectively) after being charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud. Loughlin has also been removed from her current projects on Netflix and Hallmark. The final nail in the coffin? Social media. Both women have now scrubbed their respective Instagram and Twitter accounts, and Huffman has also taken down her parenting website, What the Flicka?
This is clearly a strategic move. Now that the initial dust has settled after The Hollywood Reporter first broke that the women were two of 50 people indicted in the college bribery scandal known as Operation Varsity Blues last week, Loughlin and Huffman have to figure out what's next. Or rather, their teams do.
For two actresses, this is a PR nightmare. One prominent publicist responded to Refinery29's request for interview by saying, "Thank goodness, I’m not involved in the college admissions scandal."
You can say that again, because the consequences the women are facing go well beyond the indictment and potential jail time. A source told Deadline that Loughlin's role on Netflix's Fuller House is "toast, it’s over". Over on the Hallmark channel, the actress will no longer appear in the TV series When Calls The Heart and movie series Garage Sale Mystery.
As for Huffman — once an Oscar nominee for her role in Transamerica — her three upcoming projects (Otherhood, When They See Us, Tammy's Always Dying) are all in post-production (Netflix did not immediately respond to request for comment about Loughlin's role in the Central Park Five series), but it's hard to imagine opportunities will be abundant following her alleged involvement in the scam.
Do I think this will destroy them? I absolutely don’t. This will go away. This is no R. Kelly. This isn’t a career killer.
Ronn Torossian, PR CEO and crisis manager
However, things may not be as dire as they seem.
"Felicity and Lori, their brands will be hurt. Do I think this will destroy them? I absolutely don’t," Ronn Torossian, PR CEO and crisis manager told Refinery29. "This will go away. This is no R. Kelly. This isn’t a career killer."
Torossian thinks people will empathise with the motive behind the mothers' alleged actions, and that, with time, they'll return to steady work. A legal expert told Forbes that as long as they continue to cooperate with authorities and show contrition, the women will likely be fined and possibly given probation.
However, Loughlin and Huffman aren't the only ones who are facing repercussions. Huffman's husband, William H. Macy, was not named in the indictment, but his voice appears in the transcripts of the recorded phone calls. Shameless, on which Macy plays lead Frank Gallagher, just wrapped up its ninth season, and Showtime declined to comment on whether Macy would be welcomed back for season 10.
Loughlin's husband Mossimo Giannulli, a Target fashion designer, was named, and he is similarly being lambasted online. Avid followers of the scam started digging up old information, including the fact that this isn't the first college scam Giannulli has been a part of.
"He, like, built his whole entire brand, and he wasn’t actually, like — I don't know if I'm supposed to say this — ever enrolled in college," Loughlin and Giannulli's daughter Olivia Jade said on The Zach Sang Show earlier this month. "But he, like, faked his way through it, and then he started his whole business with tuition money that his parents thought was going to college. That’s, like, such a different time. I don’t know if I was supposed to say that, but it’s okay."
Page Six also reported that Giannulli was overheard voicing his support for Trump at a party which, while not necessarily connected to his alleged involvement in Operation Varsity Blues, led to even more negative coverage from certain outlets. It's presumably all this negative noise that led to the total shutdown of Loughlin and Huffman's social media, and it's what Torossian told Refinery29 made the most sense for both parties.
"There’s a time for noise, and there’s a time to be quiet," he said.
However, this silence limits the possibility of the two parents giving an easily accessible statement. So far, they've not spoken publicly on the allegations, which leaves them in this limbo.
"I think they need to communicate clearly if they’re guilty and say sorry across all platforms," Torossian advised. "No comment won’t suffice."
There's only one person whose career is sure to get better after the scandal — Loughlin and Giannulli's youngest daughter Olivia Jade. Although the 19-year-old will no longer be attending USC and has lost some of her sponsorship deals, her popularity has only grown. Before the scandal, her YouTube channel was gaining just a few hundred subscribers a day. Now, according to Social Blade, she's gaining thousands of subscribers daily, and has seen a 20,000 total increase since the news broke.
Maybe everyone involved should just pivot to being an influencer. A joint YouTube apology video would definitely break the internet. And Loughlin and Huffman could play themselves in the inevitable movie, bringing the saga full circle.