A small part of an interview Rachel Maddow did with the Guardian in the UK has created a bit of a furor over who she was talking about when she encouraged LGBT television anchors to come out. Frances Martel at Mediaite has the story.
In an interview in today’s Guardian, Rachel Maddow urged others in the cable news business who may be gay to come out, citing it as a “responsibility” to the gay community. The comments were reported by Business Insider as a specific direction to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, with the breathless (and erroneous) headline “Maddow To Cooper: ‘You Have A Responsibility To Come Out’ Of The Closet.” Maddow took to her blog to clarify she meant nothing of the sort: “he literally was never discussed during the interview at all — even implicitly.”
Her short note, entitled “Anchors Away,” both clarifies that she did not mean to allude to Cooper at all, nor did she independently believe Cooper had a responsibility to come out as gay. In fact, she appears rather shocked that some made the connection, noting that “media-about-media today notwithstanding, I did not in my interview with The Guardian say anything about or to Mr. Cooper, nor would I.”
Maddow insists she was not talking about CNN’s Anderson Cooper when she talked about anchors coming out. Noah Davis at Business Insider furthered the theory.
The remark was clearly targeted towards Cooper, who Out named as the No. 2 gay but has not publicly announced his sexuality despite numerous rumors.
Maddow explained in a later post that she hadn’t even thought of Cooper when she raised the issue.
I’ve long held three basic beliefs about the ethics of coming out:
- 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.
- We should all get to decide for ourselves the “if and when we feel that we can” part of that.
- 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.
The debate over Cooper overshadows a larger issue: the lack of openly LGBT anchors and reporters in national news (or even local news). Television is probably one of the last bastions of journalism where openly LGBT voices and faces are notably absent. Maddow argues “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,”
What people like Maddow, Thomas Roberts, and Jean Velez-Mitchell do when they are out on national television is provide a picture–and sense of authority–of what LGBT newspeople can be like on television. Beyond the rumors of who is gay and closeted and who is not on national news, there is a larger question of what is going to make it easier to have more openly LGBT voices on television. Visibility does matter, which is Maddow’s larger point. Without that visibility, the glass ceiling for LGBTs in television is always going to exist.