As much as we'd like to say it doesn't matter anymore when someone comes out, it's not like the world uniformly shrugs. With every coming out, also comes the usual set of homophobic responses. Sometimes it's worse than others.
In the case of Shepard Smith, the Fox News anchor, he came out in response to a question by The Huffington Post about whether Roger Ailes had forced him to stay closeted. A Gawker report had once claimed Smith wanted to come out but the former Fox News chief had insisted the conservative Fox News audience would rebel. And a minority of commenters on social media Monday and Tuesday have seemed to confirm that fear — even if Smith himself says it was never articulated by Ailes.
In Smith being gay, some read evidence of a long secret bias for Hillary Clinton and progressive causes. It’s the same kind of undermining used against CNN’s Anderson Cooper, the out anchor who was attacked as a secret Clinton supporter after asking Donald Trump tough questions during the presidential debate. The belief is that anyone who is gay is unable to do their job as an objective journalist (even though, in Cooper’s case, he doesn't even vote).
The #FireShep hashtag on Twitter is a usual place for viewers to air their grievances about the Fox News anchor. But after news broke Monday that Smith had come out, some attacked the anchor for wearing makeup on-air — which all anchors do — and jumped back on the hashtag. It should be noted that it's still legal in most states to a fire person for being LGBT. There is no federal law against it.
Other Smith detractors wielded more overtly homophobic attacks, invoking slurs or talking about anal sex for laughs. The takeaway is that while coming out is more commonplace, homophobia still exists.
From LGBT people, Smith's revelation was often met with knowing comments. It's true that Smith had been the subject of speculation. There's that Gawker story, for one. But he was also included several times on Out magazine's Power 50 list. Kara Swisher, the out journalist who founded Recode, called it an "open secret" that Smith is gay. The Washington Blade ran a story from its editor, Kevin Naff, noting that it had once tried to push Smith out of the closet in 2005: "Shep Smith Comes Out — 11 Years After I Outed Him."
"The reaction to my outing of Smith ranged from cheers to angry condemnation," Naff recalled. "It all seems a tad quaint in 2016 — and ridiculous that coming out today in Manhattan attracts any attention at all. But still, thanks to Fox News’s role in promoting the Republican agenda for 20 years that has often included vicious attacks on LGBT equality, it’s noteworthy that one of the network’s top stars is gay."
The internet was also short on the usual congratulations from celebs, big and small. Sometimes the internet will open up with a surprising number of people offering their praise. This time, not much was said, especially not by anyone at Fox News.
But there was this tweet from CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, and perhaps more are on their way.
— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) October 17, 2016