Talk show host Wendy Williams has a reputation for saying whatever comes to her mind — and when it comes to her relationship with her gay fan base, that’s not always a good thing.
Last year Williams came under fire when drag queen and performance artist Erickatoure Aviance was told she couldn’t sit in the studio audience of The Wendy Williams Show because the show had a strict “no costume policy” — particularly offensive, Aviance said, because Williams has compared herself to a drag queen on the show multiple times. After being bombarded with complaints, show officials apologized, changed the policy, and invited Aviance back.
Williams found herself in the hot seat again when talking about a gay kiss on the show Gossip Girl — she denounced the kiss on the air but later said it had to do with the way the character was being written and not that he was kissing another guy.
Then, earlier this week, Williams touched another nerve when talking about the season premiere of Dancing With the Stars."No homo, but I thought Pam Anderson looked great,” she said, suggesting that thinking another woman is hot doesn’t make her gay.
Longtime activist Tony Haze says the comment made it sound like she thinks there is something wrong with being gay. Haze — who has lived in San Francisco since the mid ’70s and marched with Harvey Milk and then, after he was killed, attended the White Night Riots — has blogged and e-mailed with activist friends about Williams before. In the past, he says, he’s given her the benefit of the doubt, equating some of her faux pas to growing pains.
But this time he thought Williams had gone too far, and he wanted to make sure producers of the show heard his complaints.
Imagine his surprise when, after he made a few calls to NBC affiliates, Williams’s executive producer, Rob Dauber, called him back.
“Rob said to me that Wendy had read an e-mail I’d sent to an NBC affiliate and that she was upset by it, and she said she doesn’t want to upset her gay audience,” Haze told The Advocate. “He said she’s very pro-gay and that she’s better for the incident happening because she’ll be more aware of what she’s saying. Rob was really, really nice. He took a lot of time to explain, and it didn’t seem like he was rationalizing; he was just explaining that it’s still kind of a new thing for her.”
Haze says the two talked for nearly 30 minutes and that Dauber made it clear Williams had heard his complaint and will “do better” in the future.
Dauber, who won an Emmy as a producer for The Rosie O’Donnell Show and is himself gay, told The Advocate in a statement that the show wants to hear from fans, and that both he and Williams took Haze’s concerns seriously.
“Our viewers and their points of view are very important to all of us at The Wendy Williams Show, and as a member of the LGBTQ community myself I have a personal interest in making sure the lines of communication stay wide open. Tony’s feeling that this poor choice of words needed to be brought to our attention was heartfelt and sincere, and I think he now realizes after our chat that there was no harm meant by Wendy to him or to any member of the gay community. We appreciate Tony bringing his concerns to our attention and have asked him to stay in touch with the show in an unofficial ombudsman-type role.”
Haze says he intends to keep watching and is willing to give Williams the benefit of the doubt, in part, he says, because she has talked about gay rights and same-sex marriage in interviews and on the show. He also says he plans to take Dauber up on his offer and contact the show if and when Williams steps out of line again.
“I’m not going to stop,” he said. “When I hear something that rubs me wrong, I react. And I’m glad. And in the end, I think this turned out fairly well.”