Blogger David Badash at the New Civil Rights Movement is going after CNN for using the term “admit” in describing the way international rugby star Gareth Thomas announced that he was gay.
Here’s how CNN said it, in a story headlined “Thomas relief after admitting he is gay,
“Every gay man will tell you that ‘coming out’ is like a weight lifted from your shoulders and beng able to walk down the street knowing that there is nothing for me to hide has been a liberating experience, ” admitted Thomas.
Badash argues that people “‘admit’ to things we’ve done wrong” and therefore journalists should not use the term “admit” when describing someone’s coming-out process. He continues:
We “come out,” we “acknowledge we’re gay,” we can even “reveal” we’re gay. But “admit?” Why would you “admit” to something that isn’t wrong?
It’s time for the media, especially the MSM, to get it straight: “admitting” you’re gay is like “admitting” you’re human.
But is he right? NLGJA’s stylebook doesn’t offer much help on terminology like this. Phrases like “admit” when quoting someone are always perilous, because they do imply a level of intention. They give a flavor to how the quote was given. “Admitted” sounds different from “acknowledged,” as Badash argues (notice, “argues” implies something different from “say” or “suggests”).
So, what is right in this situation? First, the story is essentially a listing of quotes from a video interview done for ITN, a video content provider in the UK. Given some Britishisms, my guess is the story was also written in the UK.
So did Thomas “admit” he was gay? I never hear that term in the video interview. He sounds contrite for having been closeted for awhile–he was married to a woman when he started to come out–but I’m not sure he’s “admitting” anything. Or is he? Is that the proper context for the quotations?
I can see times where someone would “admit” they were gay, especially when there has been a level of public deception. But does that apply to Thomas? Should the word “admit” even be used when discussing someone’s coming out experience?