Why It's Wrong to Say It's Wrong to Say Shepard Smith Is Gay

Sadly, 25 years after the debates over "outing' first began, some journalists still seem to think it's only an invasion of privacy worth writing about when someone'ssexuality is revealed or speculated about -- no matter how many times it's actually been discussed before.
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Shepard Smith (Photo by Duffy-Marie Arnoult/WireImage)
Shepard Smith (Photo by Duffy-Marie Arnoult/WireImage)

David Carr at The New York Times is supremely irked about Gawker supposedly "outing" Fox News anchor Shepard Smith.

Never mind that Smith was reported on as gay in the much-discussed 2009 film Outrage, which aired in heavy rotation on HBO after a wide theatrical release and was reviewed and written about extensively. Never mind that Smith's sexual orientation has been reported on and discussed online ad nauseam -- hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times -- over the years, and that, for several years, he's even been included in Out's annual "Power List." And never mind that Gawker actually didn't state in the pieces in question that Smith is "gay."

To Carr, it's wrong for Gawker to have reported on bad behavior that Smith supposedly engaged in at a bar -- treating a waitress terribly -- and to mention in the reporting of it that he happened to be there with an unidentified "boyfriend" with whom he often attends the bar. It was also wrong, in Carr's eyes, for Gawker to have then identified, in a followup, that the boyfriend is a Fox staffer who began as a production assistant:

Many argue that there is an implicit contract between the public and celebrities: that if we deem someone famous, and they reap the benefits of that, they forfeit their right to privacy. But being gay carries no higher burden. Not talking about something that people do not seem to care about is not really a secret. It's just a choice.

And have you all heard that Kim Kardashian may be pregnant again? And did you hear about how Kanye West allegedly cheated on her during the last pregnancy, though he denies it? And do you remember the David Carr piece that expressed his outrage over Kim's private medical information being revealed and Kanye's private life being invaded because of these reports?

Oh, on the last one, I don't remember it either -- because there wasn't such a piece. That's because, sadly, 25 years after the debates over "outing" first began, some journalists still seem to think it's only an invasion of privacy worth writing about when someone's homosexuality is revealed or speculated about -- no matter how many times it's actually been discussed before.

Heterosexual sexual affairs are all perfectly acceptable for gossip blogs, and even for the respectable New York Times to report on -- including about news anchors, sports stars and politicians -- even when those public figures don't want this information reported. So is boozing, divorces, three-ways, jealous rage, pill popping, Botoxing, gastric bypass surgery, Craigslist profiles, sexting, undergarment choices, Twitter liaisons -- you name it. It's all grist for the mill, titillating and exciting, especially if it's got a heterosexual tinge to it, no matter how traumatized the public figures may be by the revelations.

And this is where Carr's statement that "being gay carries no higher burden" is so infuriating: He just doesn't see that, in fact, by not reporting that a male public figure is out in public with a "boyfriend" when an incident occurred, when you would normally report that he was with a "girlfriend" if he were straight, you're actually giving gays special treatment rather than treating gays equally. You're also enforcing the closet and keeping gays invisible.

I'm sure Carr considers himself gay-supportive, but his view is paternalistic and, to borrow a phrase he hurls at Gawker, "old school." He doesn't seem to get the idea that we're not going to get any further on LGBT visibility and equality if we keep coddling people of privilege and treating the reporting of public figures' sexual orientation as if it were a revelation of terrible information that could psychologically damage them forever. And he doesn't see that that's not a consideration when reporting relevant details about other issues that public figures would rather not see reported.

Perhaps the oddest claim Carr makes -- really, the entire premise of his piece -- is that Gawker's supposed "outing" didn't cause a "ripple" and wasn't reported on much elsewhere because people are so enlightened and accepting of gays now and just don't care who's gay anymore. (Again, he ignores the fact that Shepard's sexual orientation had been discussed by many sites in years past, and maybe they now just saw it as old news.) But that claim cuts both ways: If people are so enlightened, why should it matter if it's reported on? If it really isn't a big deal, then why isn't The New York Times reporting on closeted gay or bisexual politicians who are engaging in hypocrisy by voting anti-gay, or reporting about Hollywood celebrities who are still lying about their sexual orientation, having publicists plant fake girlfriends and boyfriends in articles?

If being gay is so accepted and no longer a big deal, why does David Carr even care?

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