The Insider Is
Out

The Insider Is
            Out

It’s the
first hot day of 2008 in Los Angeles -- upward of 90
degrees, and it’s only April -- and I’m
hiking in dusty Runyon Canyon in the Hollywood hills
with Thomas Roberts, the former CNN anchor turned Insider
correspondent. Halfway up a moderately rugged climb, both
wheezing a bit, we spot a secluded ridge off the main
path, safely removed from the dogs and owners and
shirtless runners enjoying the late-afternoon sunshine. We
stand still for a moment and take in the commanding view
from downtown in the east to the Pacific in the west.
The vast metropolis, bustling with kinetic dreams up
close, lies before us in a state of startling clarity.
The only thing moving is an airplane in the distance.

The peaceful
tableau is a good match for the calm, confident demeanor of
Roberts, a major talent who’s weathered some career
turbulence of late. It started in 2006, when his
appearance on a panel of gay broadcast journalists was
picked up by a blog. The “news” quickly turned
into a coming-out of the first order -- even though
Roberts was already out at CNN. Never mind: He was now
an official gay celebrity, and along with the
affection came the opposite -- the rumors, innuendos, and
downright trash talk hurled at anyone in the public
eye these days. When Roberts left CNN a year ago this
May, people speculated that the cable news behemoth
parted ways with him because of his sexuality. Then, when he
started on the air at The Insider a few months
later, in September 2007, a blogger posted pictures
that were purportedly from Roberts’s Manhunt
profile -- a nasty hit that was splashed across the top
of the New York Post gossip column Page Six.

A tall, muscular,
classic hunk of a man, Roberts is the all-American
matinee-idol version of a broadcaster, as opposed to, say,
Anderson Cooper’s effete, almost European vibe.
But Roberts isn’t talking to me today to name
names or speculate about other people’s careers and
choices. He’s here simply to talk about his own
experience being gay in broadcasting -- which, for the
most part, has been positive, despite what you may
think.

“It’s funny that people think I got fired from
CNN,” he says, addressing the prevailing rumor
about him. “I left CNN on my accord: I resigned from
my contract because of personal reasons.” During his
six years at the channel, he says, “I never
dealt with anything but respect and kindness.
There’s a great misconception.”

Indeed, Roberts
says, being gay has never held him back. “I’ve
worked my ass off, I’ve been fortunate, and
luck doesn’t hurt either,” he says. “If
people don’t like that I’m gay or that I talk
about being gay, I’m sorry. Because
that’s not my problem.”

The glaring
absence of openly gay television anchors at the networks, on
cable, and in local markets across the country is most
obvious in the case of the CNN and 60 Minutes
silver fox, who delivers the facts on everything
except his sexuality. But when you turn your attention
away from him and scan the ranks of America’s
newsreaders, you notice Cooper has lots of company.

According to
longtime industry talent agent Mendes J. Napoli, there are
only two openly gay main news anchors currently working in
the top 20 U.S. television markets: Randy Price at
Boston’s WHDH and Craig Stevens at
Miami’s WSVN. On cable news there’s one: Jason
Bellini of CBS News on Logo. And on the networks?
None.

In the
correspondent and reporter corps, the numbers are higher --
NBC News’s John Yang and ABC News’s
Jeffrey Kofman and Miguel Marquez are a few of the big
names, though there are countless others at all levels of
TV. (And -- let’s get this out of the way --
there’s CNN’s Richard Quest, recently
busted on charges of loitering in Central Park after hours
with meth in his pocket.)

Yet when it comes
to being the face of a news division, the glass ceiling
is barely smudged. “You can be a morning anchor, a
weekend anchor, an afternoon anchor, a reporter --
they love gay reporters now because they’re so
animated, they’re not stiff,” says Napoli, who
represents Stevens. “But a primary male anchor
who’s gay? It’s an issue.”

The reason, he
says, is simple: The decision makers are middle-aged white
men. “Ninety-nine percent of main anchor decisions
end up on the desk of an older white male manager, who
is not going to view gay men the same way other people
might.” Plus, Napoli says, “There’s a
fear that the audience will reject them.”

“It’s uncharted territory,” says
“Jake,” an anchor in a major media
market who, in exchange for anonymity, spoke to me candidly
about his experience being gay but not out.
“Maybe I should have the attitude of ‘I
am gay -- take it or leave it.’ But in the back of
your mind, there’s always that thing: the
culture of the industry.” The business is rife
with gay talent, from executives on down --
“tons,” according to Jake. But
television is also a fundamentally conservative, risk-averse
world. “It’s OK if they know within the
company,” Jake says, “but you wouldn’t
do a cover story with The Advocate without
warning your media-relations person.”

Indeed, when I
first inquired about an interview with Roberts before he
started at The Insider, a spokesperson for the
show instantly said no. When I followed up two months later,
it was no dice again. Roberts says he doesn’t
recall being contacted either time.

This January,
though, he got involved directly, when I learned through a
mutual contact that he was interested in talking. Yet when
he ran the idea up the flagpole, he too was denied.
Roberts won’t cite the reasons on the record,
but he was clearly disappointed by the decision. When I
asked him how he felt about it, there was a long pause while
he considered his response. “I won’t
attach a negative to it,” he finally says
diplomatically, “but I will say that I was flattered
by the offer and thought that it would be great to be
included.” It wasn’t until this
February, when his contract was unexpectedly optioned --
meaning he was cut from the show -- that he was free
to talk.

Roberts
doesn’t want to knock anyone. He’s not that
kind of guy. “Quote me: I am flawed! I make
mistakes! I do things that are stupid! Hopefully this
interview won’t be one of them!” But he also
knows he’s making a difference, as hackneyed as
that sounds. “I heard this phrase the other
night: You can always tell the pioneers by the number of
arrows in their back,” he says, chuckling.
“It’s not that I want to be a pioneer --
I’m certainly a reluctant role model -- but
it’s like, Come out already. There’s
just no reason not to.”

“I can
state unequivocally that we would be a thousand percent
supportive of any employee who wanted to come out
publicly,” says ABC News senior vice president
Jeffrey Schneider, who is gay. And yet, none of the
highest-profile gays on the air at ABC News (think Good
Morning America,
which is reportedly called
“GayMA” by its rivals at Today) wanted
to come out for this story, since they declined to be
interviewed. Nevertheless, Schneider says, being
openly gay isn’t a career breaker: “Are
people good broadcasters? Are they aggressive and great
journalists? How do they do their job? Those are the
things that people talk about in terms of the on-air
talent.”

For Roberts, 35,
and Jake, who’s around the same age, it wasn’t
always that way. “When I went into this
business 14 years ago, I had the sense that coming out
would probably hurt my career,” says Jake, who like
many broadcast journalists got his start in a small
market and worked his way up to a network. (He stepped
down from that gig to take his current job at a
prominent affiliate for another network, where he’s
being groomed to return to the big league.)
“There were no openly gay news anchors or
reporters,” he says. “You don’t want to
be judged before you’ve even had a career. You
don’t know what the personal bias of a general
manager or a news director is. I thought, It’s
something I’ll feel more comfortable being open
about down the road.”

Now he does: His
colleagues, including his executive producer, all know
he’s gay, and he assumes the executives who hired him
know—though they haven’t mentioned
anything to him. “I know the people who hired me are
not stupid. You can Google my name and stuff pops up all
over the place.” It makes him a little
paranoid. “I hate to bring up the
‘don’t ask, don’t tell’
thing, but I’ve been hired by middle-aged,
conservative, married men. You think, I know you
accept the fact that I’m gay, but you
don’t want me to be out. I’m just going to
keep that private.

What’s
actually said is far more coded. “They’ll tell
you, ‘You’re playing to Middle America.
Our stories are going to be built around what a
housewife in Wichita would want to
see.’ ” Translation: Don’t let
it show.

Roberts too was
skittish early in his career. For one thing, he
wasn’t out at all. “I didn’t know
how best to deal with that professionally, or
personally for that matter,” he says, as flies buzz
around us and the occasional dog trots by. “I
thought it would be a roadblock -- or a brick wall --
to advancement.” So whenever he arrived in a new
market, like San Diego or Lincoln, Neb., “I
would automatically date a girl and have everyone at
the station see it. We’d date for a little while and
then I’d break up with them or do something to
make them break up with me.” Later, when his
friends would offer to set him up with another girl, Roberts
would say he was “too hurt.” “That
would get me out of the whole meet-my-sister
thing.”

He didn’t
make his first gay friend until he was almost 26 and working
at WFTX in Fort Myers, Fla. The guy worked at a rival
station, and Roberts met him through journalist
friends. “It was great for me because I finally
had somebody I could talk to or josh around with,” he
says. “He knew that I wasn’t out and he
made no big deal about it. He didn’t go
blabbing. He respected the fact that I wasn’t in a
place emotionally or psychologically” to come
out.

That soon
changed. “I was 26 -- you can only lie to yourself so
long,” Roberts says. During his next stint, at
Virginia Beach, Va.’s WAVY, he met his current
partner, Patrick. Then, right before he was called up to
CNN, he came out to his colleagues. “I had already
come out to my family by that point, so the next
logical step was work,” he says. And everyone
was “so cool. They started to meet Patrick and they
loved him. I mean, they’re some of my dearest
friends still today.”

Former colleagues
were next, a long list of people who had moved on to
bigger and better things just as he did.
“Broadcasting is a small world, and news
travels quickly -- I wanted everyone to hear from
me,” he says. “And I never lost a
friend.”

In 2001, Roberts
joined CNN as an anchor for its Headline News channel,
part of a revamp aimed at attracting younger viewers.
Altogether, the new Hollywood-ready faces -- NYPD
Blue
star Andrea Thompson, Miles O’Brien,
and Robin Meade among them -- were like Saved by
the Bell: The New Class
, Roberts jokes. But
the pressure was considerably greater than in high school.

“I
remember getting to CNN and the place is just ginormous --
there’s so many people,” he says.
“I didn’t know how I would be received -- you
kind of catch p

yourself. But my
comfort level grew and grew, and then I told people.”
Again, the reaction was unremarkable. “They
weren’t a gossipy bunch, like, ‘Oh, did
you hear about Thomas?’ It just wasn’t that
type of place.”

He never felt
unwelcome at CNN because of his sexual orientation. In
fact, six years later, when Patrick was offered a great job
in Washington, D.C., and Roberts decided to quit to be
with him—a transfer from Atlanta wasn’t
possible—his bosses tried to talk him out of it.
“They were like, ‘Are you sure you want to do
this? We’d love to have you
stay,’ ” he remembers. “They
were fantastic.”

Miguel Marquez,
Roberts’s friend and former colleague at CNN, says
his experience in broadcasting has also been uniformly
positive. The dapper Los Angeles correspondent for ABC
News often reports from Baghdad for the network. When
he called me from his office outside the Green Zone last
fall, I asked if he ever worried about being out in the biz.
“I’m not that smart,” deadpanned
Marquez, every bit as handsome and dashing as the late
Peter Jennings. “I guess I figured if someone
didn’t want to hire me because I was gay, then
I probably wouldn’t want to work for them.
There’s a lot of people who are worried about that,
and to me it’s sort of a self-fulfilling
prophecy.”

Jane
Velez-Mitchell would say much the same thing. A veteran
anchor at prominent affiliates in New York (WCBS) and
Los Angeles (KCAL), the youthful, sexy 51-year-old is
best known these days for her stint as a correspondent
on the now-defunct syndicated crime show Celebrity
Justice
, for which she covered Michael
Jackson’s 2005 child-molestation trial. (That and
other cases are the subject of her 2007 book
Secrets Can Be Murder.) She also
guest-hosts for Nancy Grace on her CNN Headline News
show and appears as a commentator on radio and TV. While
doing such a gig on L.A. radio station KABC last
September, Velez-Mitchell decided to come out. She had
been inspired by financial guru Suze Orman’s
acknowledgment earlier that year that she’s gay, and
she was looking for a convenient opening to announce
her own news. She found it with a toe-tapping senator
from Idaho.

“Opinionating about Larry Craig and his apparent
hypocrisy, it would have been hypocritical for me not
to be honest with the listeners about who I
am,” she told me a few weeks after the fact at the
home she shares with her partner, Sandra, in Marina
del Rey, Calif., just south of Venice and less than a
block from the beach. “So I just came out and said
it: ‘I want to be honest. I live with a woman
and have been in a relationship with a
woman.’ ”

No one she knew
blinked an eye -- though on the air, a listener called in
and asked if she was a “hypocrite” for not
revealing her sexual orientation during her two
decades as an anchor. In fact, Velez-Mitchell had been
in relationships with men until she met Sandra five years
ago, though she says she always had “gay
tendencies.” “My answer was,
‘Probably,’ ” she says.
“I really like those kinds of questions. Let’s
move society forward by having a dialogue about
this.”

Of course,
Velez-Mitchell would be the first to point out that she had
a certain freedom to talk about her sexuality, given
her freelance status and role as a pundit. She
concedes she sometimes noticed unease about out talent
during her anchoring days -- “like, ‘We
don’t really care, but we don’t want you
leading the parade,’ that kind of thing” --
but she also gives the public “a lot more
credit” on this issue than most broadcast folks
seem to. “I’ve always found that people in the
‘liberal’ areas aren’t quite as
liberal as they say they are, and people in the
‘conservative’ areas aren’t quite as
rigid as they say they are,” she observes.
“Everybody in America knows somebody who is gay: They
have a family member or know somebody who knows
somebody. The vice president’s daughter is gay.
Who cares?”

Indeed,
Velez-Mitchell sees her coming-out as part of a trend.
“I think the logjam has opened,” she
says. “We’re at a point now where, in a
couple of years, everybody’s going to come out.
It’s a trickle, and it becomes a stream, and it
becomes a river.”

No one is more
responsible for that rising tide than Boston’s Randy
Price, the first openly gay anchor in America. He came out
publicly in the early 1990s in an interview with a New
England gay periodical, and a mainstream paper picked
it up. At the time, people in his professional life
questioned his choice to be so open, but it has only paid
off for Price: In 1997 he was hired at WHDH, and in
1998 he began to co-anchor the evening broadcasts,
which regularly top the ratings. Today he’s not
only Boston’s most popular news anchor but one of its
most admired public figures.

“Wouldn’t you rather be a little distinctive
even if it’s unpopular in a few
quarters?” Price says about coming out. “Is it
really going to hurt you? Is your career going to
erode? Honestly not. We’ve been watching
gay-friendly entertainment for years, Will &
Grace
and this and that. It’s not a big
deal.” He offers a pointed question to those
gay journalists who claim they don’t want to become
the story themselves or risk access to sources who may
not be gay-friendly: “In a business based on
honesty, when do you eventually become yourself?”

Steve Kmetko, the
longtime E! anchor, saw no damage to his career either
when he came out publicly on the cover of this magazine in
1999. Though he left the channel in 2002 after an
acrimonious contract dispute, he says he had a great
experience there and has never regretted the decision.
“Quite frankly, age is more of a hindrance at this
point in my career than being gay,” he says.

But instead of
following the lead of Price or Roberts, Jake and his
closeted peers seem to be taking their cues from the Coop,
whose publicists -- no surprise -- did not respond to
interview requests for this story. “When CNN
hired Anderson, especially among the industry, it was
just known that he’s gay. I guess nobody cared. He
made the choice, much like I have, not to talk about
it,” says Jake, who in the past has worked in
proximity to him.

The most
celebrated anchor of his generation, Cooper is also the
object of intense fascination vis-à-vis his
sexual orientation. Media critics, bloggers, viewers,
my mom -- people are dying to penetrate his opaque
exterior and find out what makes him tick. Whom does he
date? Why won’t he come out? Has he discussed
strategy with CNN? Is it all just a deliberate ruse to
keep the buzz going?

Indeed, his glass
closet may well be a canny marketing move, judging from
the informal advice that Jake himself once received from an
executive during a business dinner. “He said to
me, ‘It’s better if people don’t
know one way or the other,’ ” he
recalls. “ ‘Let the people who think
you’re gay think you’re gay, and let the
people who think you’re straight think
you’re straight. Then we have it both ways. A little
mystery never hurts.’ ”

No one begrudges
Jake -- or Cooper -- if he feels hemmed in by forces
beyond his control. “To talk about reporters and
anchors—I’m not doing that anymore, so I
can’t put myself in the shoes of someone who
is,” Velez-Mitchell tells me. “They have
all these other variables that I don’t have to
contend with.” But Jake is an interesting proxy for
the silver-haired one, given their similar
circumstances, and he’s watched his
predecessor’s rise with keen interest. “It
presents an interesting conundrum that I
haven’t been faced with yet, which is: You give an
article to Vanity Fair, you talk about every single personal
thing, and [your sexual orientation] is the one issue
that’s skirted,” says Jake. “Did
he think, OK, now I’m really in a star
position, I’m doing all these personal articles,
but I’m going to omit that?

“I’m not there yet -- I may never get there.
But if you want to be judged by your work, then how
much do you share?” He pauses to consider the
question. “I don’t know if I’m ready
for that.”

But Jake is
worried about more than that -- he’s also scared of
the hawks in the gay community who circle celebrities
with killer intent, none more so than their own. By
pure coincidence, I interviewed Jake in his apartment
on the very day that Roberts’s Manhunt
“scandal” hit. It was clearly on his
mind—he brought the subject up unprompted.
“What is it the community says it
wants?” he asked rhetorically. “Well, it would
be nice to have some role models in various
industries: lawyers, doctors, anchors, reporters,
actors, whoever. Well, Roberts came out. He’s open.
He’s landed another job. In your mind, you think,
OK, people know and they don’t really
care
.

“But then
the gossip starts: Who has he slept with? Who has he been
with? Where does he hang out? What does he do?
What’s he like? It’s like, Jesus, is
that necessary? It’s become this weird witch
hunt.”

Jake has already
been burned by innuendos. Early in his anchoring career,
after he’d made a guest appearance on a local radio
show, someone left a message at the station outing
him. As Jake remembers it, “It said, ‘Hi,
this is so-and-so. I don’t know if you’re
aware. Everyone knows. He’s gay and he has a
boyfriend. Just thought you should
know.’ ” That people might be out
to get him was an alarming revelation. “I thought,
Oh, my gosh, there’s a weird thing going on
here
. If you’re gay and want to keep it a
secret -- if you’re on TV -- you can’t.
It felt like an attack.” As a public figure, he
learned, one’s sexuality can be used as
“ammunition.”

It was probably a
foregone conclusion that Roberts was in for similar
treatment as soon as word hit the blogosphere that he was
gay. In September 2006 he had appeared on a panel
called “Off Camera: The Challenges for LGBT TV
Anchors” at the National Lesbian and Gay
Journalists Association convention in Miami Beach, Fla. A
blogger in attendance wrote about the event, and
though he mentioned other participants like Stevens,
for some reason -- his comely appearance? --
Roberts’s name ripped through the gay media
(including this magazine’s website).

It was a total
shock to him. “It was the worst-kept secret, I
guess,” Roberts says about his sexual
orientation. “Everyone at CNN knew Patrick,
knew my life. I’d go out, I’d support gay
restaurants or bars. It was no big secret in Atlanta.
But sitting on a panel—people took that as some
great step.” He wasn’t trying to come out; he
did the panel to show younger broadcast journos
“that you can have a career, don’t be afraid.
Just keep your head down and work hard. Like anything in
this business, it’s about skill, luck, and
timing.”

Roberts made
headlines again the following March, when Cooper interviewed
him on his show about the molestation he suffered by a
priest as a kid growing up in Maryland. Given all the
attention he was receiving, Roberts had become a bona
fide celebrity in the gay world. It was all too
predictable when someone tried to topple him from his
pedestal.

It was September
6, Roberts’s fourth day at The Insider,
when the Manhunt photos were posted online last year. The
next day, a Page Six item dripping with homophobia detailed
the whole thing. The headline? “New Sex Mess
Jolts Insider.” Roberts had come out to
California excited about the new gig -- he had spent
the summer looking for a good opportunity like this --
and now he was faced with potential disaster.

His response to
the incident is honest, if reticent. “I never put
inappropriate pictures of myself on a public
website,” he says by way of explanation.
“For me it was really hurtful, for Patrick and I it
was terribly painful, and I’m sure anyone
reading this will realize that what happened was
something that we needed to deal with on a personal level.
And we’ve dealt with it—we’ve closed
the book on that issue and moved on.”

I ask him if he
was angered by what was clearly meant to be a personal
takedown. “The only thing I’ll say is that it
is a nonissue for me anymore. It’s not active
in my life, nor do I want it to be. But
respectfully” -- he smiles broadly -- “I thank
you for asking.”

A statement by
The Insider called the event “a
malicious personal attack,” and Roberts says he was
pleased with the show’s response. “They
handled that situation like a class act,” he says.
“They rallied the wagons and fought back against the
allegations and did everything they could to show me
kindness and respect.” But although The
Insider
, like any celebrity-obsessed show, loves a
good scandal, the team there couldn’t have been happy
with the development. “They said ‘We are
not throwing the baby out with the
bathwater’” is all Roberts will say.

Does he think the
incident had anything to do with his being cut from the
show? “You’ll have to ask them. I’ve
heard it could be budgetary decisions -- I
don’t know. I was just told that I wasn’t part
of the future direction of the show. And I have to
respect their decision.”

Was being gay a
factor? “They hired me knowing I was gay --
that’s all I’ll say to that question.
They hired me knowing I was out and gay.”

A spokesperson
for the show concurred: “We were aware of
Thomas’s sexuality when we hired him and it had
nothing to do with our decision to make a
change.”

So Roberts was
out of a job -- but the blogger had made a name for
himself. Funny thing is, if you go to his site now (and,
full disclosure, he once discussed writing for The
Advocate
with me, though nothing came of it), you
can’t find the original item without some
assiduous searching. Instead, you’ll see links to the
coverage it got -- and an undated photo of the blogger with
Roberts at an event, both smiling. It’s a
paradox of contemporary fandom not unique to the gays:
We love our stars, but we also love to tear them down.

Tom Brokaw thinks
there’s no reason there can’t be an openly gay
anchor. “No,” says the retired NBC News
lion, and “I’ve been saying that for
years, by the way.” And yet when he talked to The
Advocate
in January in connection with his book Boom!
Voices of the Sixties
, he inadvertently
revealed the kind of subtle discomfort about gays that Jake
senses at high levels in the industry. “We have
someone -- I’m not going to say [her] name
because I haven’t checked with her on this -- who is
a terrific advocate for gay rights in the NBC Nightly
News room. It’s well-known, and she is an
important voice,” Brokaw said. An entirely
appropriate response: He clearly didn’t want to out
his colleague against her wishes. But the very fact
that one’s sexuality requires such delicacy
confirms the stigma that still exists.

Nevertheless,
people like Velez-Mitchell are coming out all the time in
the broadcast news business. “If it does impact my
career, well, so be it,” she says.
“Life’s short. When you’re lying on
your deathbed, are you going to remember that you had
two more years working in a cubicle, or are you going
to remember that you were true to yourself and maybe
encouraged some other people to be true to
themselves?”

That’s
already happening, as the new generation of broadcast talent
coming up sees being gay as an asset, not baggage. Take
Chris Saldaña, the cute 31-year-old who
co-anchors the weekend broadcasts at KLAS in Las
Vegas. Out virtually from the start of his career, the Texas
native says that his experience as a gay person is one
of many areas of expertise for him as a journalist.
“Whenever there’s a gay issue, I’m on
it; whenever there’s a Latino issue, I’m
on it—a Catholic issue, they put me on it,”
Saldaña says about reporting stories for broadcast.
Indeed, being gay and being involved in the local LGBT
community has been a “win-win situation”
for him. “It’s what you make of it. Had I been
reserved and so forth, then it would have been a taboo
issue. But if you are who you are, you have no
problems with it.”

In the new world
of television news, diversity is key to success. Ask
Harvey Levin, the energetic force behind TMZ.com and its hit
TV spin-off. Granted, the subject matter is
down-market celebrity fluff, but it’s well-done
-- and it’s attracting demographically desirable
viewers by the droves. In part that’s due to a
young staff filled with personalities that Levin
happily lets shine. “Everybody brings something to
the table with their personality,” says Levin,
a onetime investigative reporter for Los
Angeles’s KCBS who can frequently be seen on Larry
King Live
, filling in for the host or
providing commentary on the latest Hollywood scandal.
“There are people on my staff who are gay,
there are people who are straight, and that absolutely
filters into what we do. I like that there’s
diversity, that sometimes you can tell whether a woman
wrote [a piece], whether a man wrote it, somebody gay,
somebody straight. It’s all part of the diet.”

Levin himself has
been out for years. “Everybody I work with knows,
everybody in the television business knows. We’ll
make jokes about it: I’ll say things in
meetings [like] ‘That’s the gayest thing
I’ve ever said!’ It doesn’t
matter.”

Sooner or later,
a household name will realize that and come out
publicly. Someone will notice that nothing too bad has
befallen Roberts or Velez-Mitchell or Price. Based on
recent comments, even Cooper seems to be inching out
of his fragile enclosure. He’s made a habit of
bantering knowingly with his newsreader, Erica Hill, like
the time she pointed out baby blankets imprinted with
the names erica and cooper in a catalog. “Did
your husband get a little nervous, a little jealous?”
Cooper asked, before joking, “Clearly [he]
doesn’t have anything to be nervous
about.” Of course, it could all just be more grist
for the buzz machine.

One
thing’s for sure: Whenever he comes out -- and he
will, eventually -- Cooper has lost the opportunity to
lead on the issue, to be as brave as he’s been
while dropping in and out of war zones. He’s surely
aware of the stakes, and of the courage it takes to be
out. If he wonders how it’s done, he only has
to look to Thomas Roberts.

“We are
covered in bugs!” Roberts nearly shouts toward the
end of our interview that warm April day in Los
Angeles. Little yellow flowers surround
us—along with the view and the weather, annoying
insects can hardly diminish the beautiful atmosphere.
And Roberts seems to be enjoying the ride. He may be
out of a job with nothing definite lined up (though he
is developing a secret project of his own), but the
anchorman remains optimistic, almost impossibly so.

“You’re so self-actualized,” I say with
a laugh. He quickly replies with a serious look in his
eyes. “I’m just getting to a point where
it’s like, Who cares?” he says.
“I’m getting too old. The sun is going to come
up tomorrow; bills are going to be paid.” About
being gay in broadcast news, he says, “I think
everybody’s looking for somebody else to do
something. Well, it’s just you. All it takes is
you.”

Tags: World, World

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