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Waking Up to Gio Benitez, GMA Weekend's Out Star

Waking Up to Gio Benitez, GMA Weekend's Out Star

Gio Benitez

Benitez brings no shortage of knowledge, authenticity, and kindness to his role of journalist and morning personality.

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Gio Benitez photographed by Roland Fitz in Miami; additional photography by Heidi Gutman for ABC News.

He’s a new co-anchor at the weekend edition of a.m. juggernaut Good Morning America, but Gio Benitez is shy about acknowledging he’s at the top of his game.

The 37-year-old gay, married, multiple Emmy-winning journalist from Miami has been at ABC News since 2013, reporting stories for all the division’s programs and platforms, including World News Tonight, 20/20, and Nightline and most recently holding the title of transportation correspondent before being promoted, now adding weekend co-anchor of the channel’s flagship morning program, Good Morning America, to his CV. Most recently, Benitez has been on the ground in Maui, covering the island's unimaginable wildfires and their aftermath.

On a calmer day back in July, Benitez called me and started a conversation like we were old friends.

“It’s nice to chat with my Twitter buddy,” he said. (Our interactions had been limited to DMs until then despite having friends in the same circles.)

Benitez thanked me for an article I wrote for Advocate.com when news of his prestigious new position broke in May. Before the promotion, Benitez had been temporarily co-hosting the third hour of the weekday GMA, following the suspension (and eventual firing) of former anchors Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes after their affair went public. That tumult seemed far away during our conversation.

“I’m curious, over time, what have you noticed has changed about being gay in the public eye?” I asked.

“Authenticity,” Benitez said, adding that it’s been essential for him to be public about who he was early in his career.

“[In] television, especially television news, you really have to be authentically you,” Benitez explained.

A few years after graduating from Florida International University, Benitez came out to his family at 24. It was a cathartic experience that helped him step into the ranks of ABC News with confidence.

“ABC fully embraced me and encouraged me to be fully authentic in everything that makes me me,” he recalled. “They wanted to profile [me] and allow me to showcase on GMA, which I think was critical for me personally.”

As a result of his work, he has been recognized for excellence with three national Emmy Awards and two regional Emmys.

He believes his most important responsibility is to convey accurate information to viewers — and he has been well-received. Reports from late June show GMAdominating weekend ratings.

“I think that when people are watching Good Morning America, they’re watching for the information that I’m giving just as [they would with] any other journalist, and I think that that’s overwhelmingly the response from the audience.”

Benitez shrugged off the reality that his name joins a short list of out broadcast journalists who’ve achieved national success, such as Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow, and Robin Roberts, the latter being his ABC News colleague.

“The fact that you mentioned me in the same breath as Robin Roberts, that’s incredible, that’s such an honor,” he said. “I just think she’s the best of the best and just so incredibly caring and wonderful.”

The show’s producers deserve the credit for getting him into that category, according to Benitez.

Good Morning America really has to reflect the makeup of this country…because this show itself is such a part of that rich fabric of America.”

Photo by Heidi Gutman/ABC News

Benitez not only offers perspective as a married gay man, but as a Latino whose family emigrated from Cuba. His pride in his Cuban heritage extended to his Advocate photo shoot, where he was ecstatic to take pictures in Little Havana’s Domino Park, not far from where his grandfather once operated a barbershop.

Though proud of his multiple identities, Benitez doesn’t see himself as an onscreen advocate in the traditional sense since his job is to report facts, not preach to an audience. Yet, he observes that in today’s political climate, when the LGBTQ+ community is being attacked rhetorically, legislatively, and physically, it’s incumbent upon him to raise awareness.

“I think everything needs to be covered, and it needs to be covered fairly and accurately, and that’s what I’m focused on doing,” he said.

One of Benitez’s projects succeeded thanks to his ability to respectfully convey the stories of his subjects. Recently, he hosted the ABC News special Our America: Who I’m Meant to Be, introducing viewers to a group of transgender youth through an hour-long conversation.

Our America: Who I'm Meant To Be (2023) | Official Trailerwww.youtube.com

Only 42 percent of Americans know at least one transgender person, according to Pew research, which partly explains why trans issues still generate so much ignorance.

“It was the first time on television that six young trans people came together…and we held a town hall where they talked about who they are, and we dove deep into their everyday lives,” said Benitez. “And what you see is that they are just everyday kids.”

When he asked some of their parents how they felt when their child told them they were trans, one set of parents told him it was the first time their child had smiled in years.

“I knew then that I was doing the right thing by being fully supportive and being fully there for her,” he recalled a parent saying. “I heard from a lot of people who watched that, who felt that they now had a better understanding of what it means [to be transgender] because obviously, we’re seeing many headlines about the trans community, but we’re not necessarily truly meeting these individuals.”

I asked Benitez to consider his impact on young Latino and gay kids who see him on TV.

“Well, not only do I consider it, but I hear directly from them,” he replied. “And that has had such an impact on me.”

When Benitez and his husband, TV and podcast host Tommy DiDario, got engaged in 2015 in Paris and married in Miami in 2016, photos of their relationship went viral.

“I heard from all of these kids, and I heard from their parents as well,” he said. “Some of these parents were not accepting of their children, and they wrote to me and said, ‘I have now apologized to my child because I saw your picture and I realized everything’s going to be okay.’”

He also receives messages from young people looking for advice on coming out.

“I’ll say, ‘Everything in your own time.’ I don’t think that there should be a rush. It’s just whenever anybody feels ready; nobody should be rushing to anything.”

Benitez’s own self-knowledge and confidence ran parallel to his career. Over the years, his work at ABC News allowed him to witness and report on incredible moments in history.

“Certainly, I didn’t expect to find myself in the El Chapo tunnel after his escape from a Mexican prison,” Benitez said. “I didn’t expect to find myself on a research vessel with the explorer who found the Titanic sending a robot down into the Caribbean’s only active underwater volcano.”

But the news event that had the largest impact on him was the 2016 Pulse massacre in Orlando, where 49 people died, mostly LGBTQ+ Latinos.

“I was the first reporter to interview a survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting,” he said. “That survivor was not gay, but [he] was a mentor to many of the kids at that nightclub. He was an ally, and that interview and how much he cared for these kids will always stay with me. So I think that in terms of a story that I will always remember, it’s that one right there.”

Benitez is excited to explore new stories and talk to people he otherwise hasn’t had the opportunity to pursue in his other role as transportation correspondent, a position he still holds during the week. (His schedule can be pretty hectic.)

Photo by Heidi Gutman/ABC News

“This allows me to stretch into new territory and really explore the human spirit,” he says. “That’s what I love about television news: we’re truly able to explore what it means to be human.”

Bringing inspiration to the audience is also critical.

“After all, I think that, especially at times now, joy is so important to spread. And I love that we do that on a show like GMA,” he said. “I’m so excited about sitting down every Saturday and Sunday and having this conversation with America, because that’s what it feels like. It feels like a conversation with the audience sitting at home, maybe on the couch sipping some tea or coffee, watching the show, and hopefully smiling along with us.”

As we wrapped up our conversation, Benitez owed me an answer to a question I had asked but for which he needed more time. Who is his dream interview?

“At first glance, I’d like to interview some of the legends in journalism, but the good news is…I have had the opportunity to not just talk with these legends of television news, but they’re my friends. I ask them lots and lots and lots of questions.”

Additionally, he notes how movies like E.T., Jurassic Park, and The Color Purple turned him on to visual media and shaped his worldview.

Those films “allowed me to dream as a kid. And so I would absolutely love to interview Steven Spielberg.”

Benitez is equally inspired by people who aren’t A-list names; those just doing something special, something different, something honest. “I just heard the music of this young 25-year-old singer named Greyson Chance. He’s not someone who’s super famous by any means,” Benitez said. “He’s a young gay man, and I think his story that I was reading about is just so incredible at such a young age. He seems so wise.”

With an out journalist behind the desk of one of the nation’s most influential news programs, Chance will likely be one of many queer individuals GMA’s huge audience will be exposed to. It’s a good morning, indeed.

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