Yesterday it was widely reported that Rachel Maddow said she wanted gay news anchors, and specifically Anderson Cooper, to come out due to this paragraph in a Guardian profile:
Maddow is one of the very few gay news anchors in America -– well, one of the very few openly gay news anchors. Does she feel frustration towards an equally well-known news presenter who is widely assumed to be gay but has never come out? For the first time, Maddow pauses: "I'm sure other people in the business have considered reasons why they're doing what they're doing, but I do think that if you're gay you have a responsibility to come out," she says carefully.
It's obvious that interviewer Hadley Freeman was referring to Anderson Cooper, but last night Maddow wrote on her blog, "I wasn't asked about Anderson Cooper, I didn't say anything about him, he literally was never discussed during the interview at all — even implicitly." She continued:
I've long held three basic beliefs about the ethics of coming out:
1. Gay people — generally speaking — have a responsibility to our own community and to future generations of gay people to come out, if and when we feel that we can.
2. We should all get to decide for ourselves the "if and when we feel that we can" part of that.
3. Closeted people should reasonably expect to be outed by other gay people if (and only if) they prey on the gay community in public, but are secretly gay themselves.
I also believe that coming out makes for a happier life, but that's not a matter of ethics, that's just corny advice.
Media-about-media today notwithstanding, I did not in my interview with The Guardian say anything about or to Mr. Cooper, nor would I. Although criticism of Mr. Cooper was intimated by The Guardian and picked up everywhere — I did not make that criticism in the interview, nor did I imply it, nor is it what I believe.
Since we don't have a transcript of the interview, we can't get to the bottom of this case of she said/she said, but it seems that Maddow may be backtracking after realizing that even her carefully worded response turned into a minor scandal. Anderson Cooper's name may not have been uttered during the interview, but after years of chatter regarding his homosexuality, it's essentially impossible for a discussion of closeted news anchors to not implicitly reference AC.
That isn't to say Maddow wasn't right to clear up her remarks. As she outlines in her post, some feel Cooper is shirking his responsibilities because a respected journalist coming out could lead to wider acceptance of homosexuality. But Cooper isn't denying that he's gay, he just refuses to discuss the details of his sex life publicly. That's also an understandable stance, since Wolf Blitzer isn't expected to end reports by saying, "You're watching the best political team on television, and by the way, I love having sex with women!"
Minor media kerfuffles like this may be one of the main reasons Cooper isn't as vocal about his sexual orientation. While he can condemn the use of the word "gay" in a Vince Vaughn trailer and discuss the problem of gay bullying without it overshadowing his other work, the only part of this Maddow profile that was widely discussed was her comment about being gay.