CNBC'S Shepard Smith took time during the NLGJA Association of LGBTQ Journalists 2021 Convention to speak with Brandon Gomez, also of CNBC, to give some advice to aspring journalists. There, the former Fox News anchor discussed gay stereotypes and the dangers of being pigeonholed as a gay journalist.
"I am not here to be your token," Smith told Gomez of his own experiences. "I don't want to be the gay journalist. I want to be the journalist who is gay."
Smith had worked for Fox News before he abruptly departed the conservative network in 2019. He had worked there since 1996, having come out publicly in 2017,but to coworkers and friends a decade prior. After he began to do that, at the NLGJA chat he revealed he had been made the "token gay" multiple times and advised others to avoid it if possible.
He warned against accepting situations where an editor says, "Oh, there's a gay story. Gay guy, go cover that."
In cases like that, Smith advised, "I think you need to stand up."
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"You know how they stereotype us [gay men]," Smith said, encouraging others to remain calm and businesslike. "We're emotional, we fly off the handle, we have chips on our shoulder."
He added that while "that's true for individuals," it is not true for gay men as a group. Nonetheless, Smith said it's important that throughout the process, "You do it according to the book."
"I came to work for corporations and large groups because when I was a child my dad worked for himself and sometimes we had enough money to get by, and sometimes we didn't," Smith recalled. "Sometimes there were new shoes and clothes for school, and sometimes there weren't."
Those experiences left a lasting impression and incentivized him from childhood to "work for someone that gives me a check every two weeks."
As a result, Smith "signed up to work for the man." He received his steady paycheck, with the tradeoff being "when you work for the man, you follow the man's rules."
He also stressed the importance of perseverance, saying once you start the process "you do it and you do it until you get success."
Last year, Smith told The Advocate that he never felt hindered as a journalist because of his sexuality.
"Life is wonderful being out and gay and proud," he said. "I live my truth; it's not very interesting. I have a partner of nine years who I'm madly in love with and who I get to share ups and downs with and who's my rock and who loves my family. I'm so thankful to be in this position. I know even in this woke world, there are plenty of people struggling. Struggling about who they are and what people think of them. If you live your truth, there are no limits. I'm so proud and happy to be part of this loving gay community. It's fantastic."