Writer Daryl Austin came under fire from Fixer Upper fans in April, after he penned an article on USA Today, expressing his opinion that the HGTV stars couldn’t possibly put their kids first, as they have often said they do, given how busy they are with their mega-popular series and their ever-expanding business ventures.
“There is much to be admired about them, including their commitments to their faith, marriage, family and community,” Austin said of the famous couple. “There’s an important distinction, however, that I think their millions of fans and would-be imitators need to remember: Chip and Joanna Gaines did not get where they are now by putting their family first.”
After it was released, Chip responded to Austin with a tweet saying, “I don’t know Daryl, & he clearly doesn’t know me. But for the record: If there is ever a need w/ my family (1st), I’ll shut this circus down so fast it will make your head spin. BUT Jo & I believe, w/ God anything is possible. Including having an amazing family AND a career you love.”
Austin later apologized, writing another story, this time for Fox News, in which he admitted, “I regret writing it.” He added, “I didn’t write it to be hurtful, out of jealousy, or to cause controversy. I wrote it for one simple reason: because I believed every word I wrote to be true.”
He also reached out to the Gaineses, who just welcomed their fifth child on June 21, directly asking for their forgiveness.
And not only did they reply, he tells PEOPLE, they offered him and his family a rather incredible opportunity: a free stay in one of their two uber-popular Waco, Texas, vacation rental houses — Magnolia House and Hillcrest Estate — which regularly book up 6 months in 5 minutes when reservations are released.
WATCH THIS: Chip and Joanna Gaines Welcome Son: ‘The Gaines Crew Is Now 1 Stronger!’
Austin say he turned them down. “I would not be comfortable with them paying for it, but I had told them that we would love to visit Waco someday and we still will, just not on their dime.”
Austin maintains that he’s been a fan of Chip and Joanna all along. “My wife and I have seen almost every episode of Fixer Upper, we watch all of their interviews, I’ve read their book, The Magnolia Story, we buy their products, and we have planned for sometime to visit the Silos someday,” he says.
He also reveals what his unexpected interaction with the stars themselves has taught him. “I already respected them a lot, despite some concerns I addressed in that article, but now I respect them even more. It takes a lot of humility to ‘turn the other cheek’ the way they did towards me.”