Fired: News Anchor Charles Perez Speaks
BY Neal Broverman
August 11 2009 12:00 AM ET
Your former boss, news director Bill Pohovey, is gay. Do you think the homophobia you’re alleging comes from him or is he just a conduit?I think he’s a company man. I think if you had to label Bill a gay man or a company man, you would pick company man. I also talked to my agent about it. My agent said to me, “You know, Charles, you got to remember, there were Jews in the 1930s who sold out other Jews so they would stay good with the guys in power.” Never changes. It’s sad, but it’s true.
And here’s another point on that note. Bill is somebody who, with respect to his privacy, he’s pretty known in this community as being the gay person who’s never been out. So I completely suspect that the company said to him, “We better put you out there to neutralize this.” I do not, for anything, think that Bill would be the guy who says, “Well, let me put out a statement as a gay man.” I mean, most people who know him fell over when they read that.
Let’s go back to the point you made about hosts or anchors working under intense scrutiny. Anderson Cooper, who has faced plenty of rumors over his sexual orientation, operates in a world like this.I’ve spoken with Anderson but have never met him. Anderson was on Oprah; he did an hour with his mom. It was great. He talked about his childhood. He talked about his brother’s suicide. He talked about wanting to be a journalist and going to Africa in his 20s with his own camera. And I applaud him for that. There are a lot of kids who come from privilege who would have never done that. I applaud him as a newsman.
But I thought something very interesting. I thought, If you had a straight newsman with that profile of that same age, who is reasonably handsome, who is unmarried, would Oprah not have even asked the question if he was seeing somebody? And I can only imagine that it was negotiated ahead of time, or it was understood between them. And that’s the difference. It’s a subtlety that really needs to end. It’s great that Anderson is on the air and he is as successful as he is. But there is a difference now between gay men and gay women. It’s twofold. Gay women have had the benefit of giants like Ellen and Rosie. They may not have been in news, but they have certainly blazed the trail. In the television industry, it is still acceptable to have gay men in a stereotype that straight men feel comfortable with, whether it is Steven Cojocaru or Jack on Will & Grace. But the Will of Will & Grace still makes them uncomfortable. And that is partly our fault. I’m not kidding here. I’m not a perfect gay man. There were times when I could have been more out than I was, where I could have done more, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t now.
You went through a messy public breakup that was fodder for blogs and newspaper articles. Do you think that played a role in your demotion? In other words, have you witnessed ramifications from a straight anchor’s messy divorce?We’ve had straight anchors go through messy divorces, and the station stands by them and everything is fine. I don’t think a messy divorce would have been a problem. First of all, this [discrimination] began earlier than that. I don’t know if you read an earlier e-mail that went out [a private missive by Perez to his therapist that was sent to his entire address book, allegedly forwarded by his ex-boyfriend]. That was my ex trying to malign me. That’s what is the sad part of all this. It was a relationship that was coming to an end; actually, it ended. I went to my producers, and they suggested that I should get a restraining order. And I went back to them and said, “Do you want me to do this? Because this could show up in the press.” And I knew through my contract that if anything scandalous came through this, I could be fired. They don’t need to say any other reason.
What exactly does you contract say?It actually says [that] if I should be involved in anything scandalous or perceived to be scandalous, whether or not I am the cause, I could be terminated within 24 hours. So it’s pretty broad. In order to protect myself, I was appreciative that they suggested this and that I should go forward. But I wrote them an e-mail basically saying everything they said in the meeting and thanking them for their support as things go forward, and I sent it to them. They were livid because I had put it in writing, and I believe that it was their intention to let me go then because at that point -- this is before the article came out, that made it worse -- I believe that what began on March 16 when my ex circulated the e-mail was when they started to change their perception of me, to see me differently. They started to see me as gayer than they’d seen me before. I think they were really concerned. I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt. I said, “Fine, show me how [the demotion] is helping you financially. Show me.” And they’ve never been able to.