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A local NBC anchor came out as gay on live TV. Now, he shares how the moment has changed his life

news anchor come out gay live broadcast KARE 11 Sunrise Jason Hackett
KARE 11 NBC News

”I hope that people continue to talk to their LGBTQ family members and try to get to know them better, try to get to a level of acceptance and love,” Jason Hackett told The Advocate.

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For LGBTQ+ people, coming out is a personal decision but a rite of passage that most queer people share. Recently, a 36-year-old news anchor in Minnesota came out as gay to the world on live television, and the video went viral.

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On May 3, Jason Hackett, the newest anchor for Minneapolis NBC affiliate KARE’s Sunrise morning show, captivated audiences by coming out to the audience live on air. This moment marked the first time Hackett publicly addressed his sexuality after previously keeping his private life under wraps.

In the video, Hackett addressed viewers with a heartfelt message: “I want to share this with you,” he said as he explained how he’d been approached to appear on the cover of Lavender Magazine, a local LGBTQ+ publication.

“I was asked if I wanted to be on this month’s cover and talk about my coming out story, and I put some thought into it, and I said, why not?” he said.

KARE 11's Jason Hackett shares his coming out storywww.youtube.com

Hackett shared that while his friends, colleagues, and some family members knew about his sexuality, he had never come out to the broader Minneapolis community.

“I’ve been living in a glass closet for the most part, but now I wanted to let you out there, the viewers out there that wake up with me every morning, to know a little bit more about me and coming out to new people is never easy for me.”

The gravity of the moment was evident for Hackett as he opened up to his audience. “I’m so nervous right now. I’m not going to lie,” he said. “This is no doubt the most people I’ve ever come out to at once. But what me and Alicia, and John and Cece and everyone here on Sunrise strive for is authenticity. And I can’t preach that without being my authentic self.”

Hackett revealed to The Advocate how this significant moment came together. He said that his station partners with the Aliveness Project, supporting people living with HIV. Hackett was initially asked to participate in a local magazine feature to discuss his support for the cause. He said that the station’s community relations team approached him and offered him the opportunity to use the station’s platform to say more.

“There’s an opportunity if you would like to tell your story, to share your story,” he said he was told. “They left it completely up to me…they wanted me to be ready to take that step.”

Hackett said that he realized it was time.

“Now that I have this platform, I’m in the biggest market I’ve ever worked in,” he said. “Let me take this opportunity to make an impact.”

The reaction from Hackett’s colleagues was immediate and heartfelt. Co-anchor Alicia Lewis was visibly emotional, expressing her pride and support, while meteorologist John Zeigler, caught off guard, exclaimed, “Hey, I didn’t know this was happening today! But I have totally an out-of-body experience. I’m so proud of you.”

Hackett’s announcement resonated far beyond the newsroom. He described the overwhelmingly positive response from people worldwide.

“I’m hearing from people from Nigeria. I’m hearing from people from Ireland and the UK, who are just so grateful, happy, and encouraged by my words and what I said,” he said.

He said that representation matters so much because of what seeing somebody who looks like them or shares attributes with them does to the confidence of young people.

“It would have been nice to see examples of this when I was a kid. It would have been nice to turn on the TV and see more mainstream examples of this, of a person saying, ‘Hey, I’m gay, and I’m lesbian, I’m trans, and everything’s fine. And I’m living my life, and I’m accepted, and you could be too,’” he said. “I would love to see more examples of that.”

He also offered wisdom to his younger self: “There are going to be more people out there that welcome that announcement with open arms than those that don’t. I’ve had more good experiences coming out to people than bad experiences. More often than not, the reaction is, ‘Okay, we love you, and we accept you, and that doesn’t change anything.’ So I would tell myself that. There’s more acceptance than not when it comes to this process. And it’s so freeing.”

Hackett’s journey to this moment was not without its challenges. Growing up in a conservative, religious family made his path to self-acceptance even more difficult, he said.

His message to those grappling with similar issues was clear in his original message. “For anyone that is watching this now, who is struggling to find acceptance or struggling with their family or their friends, take it from me: a gay, Black son of immigrants. The road may not be easy. I won’t lie to you and say that it is but don’t worry. Keep going. You’re going to make it.”

He encouraged others struggling with their own coming out to consider his story.

The anchor told The Advocate, “Everybody has their timeline and their own circumstances when it comes to their coming-out journey. But I would encourage other people to step up and show my example. You never know who’s watching. Based on the messages and feedback I’ve gotten, this impacts so many people and inspires them to consider taking that step out of the closet, making that move, and being authentic. So I would certainly encourage other people to walk in their truth.”

Hackett also expressed deep appreciation for the news station’s supportive and affirming environment. “This has been the most inclusive, accepting station that I’ve worked at,” he shared. He highlighted the station’s commitment to authenticity and acceptance, noting, “I marched in a Pride parade last year with people from my station. I could never do that anywhere else. It was such a big moment for me.”

He said that the attention he’s received has given him a new sense of purpose; he acknowledged the responsibility that comes with increased visibility and his desire to use his platform for good.

“I’m an introvert,” he said. “I wasn’t really big on social media; I don’t really share a lot, but I feel like now I have a responsibility to give a little bit of insight into what’s going on in my life.”

He continued, “This went viral for a moment. I know things go viral and disappear. I hope that people continue to talk to their LGBTQ family members and try to get to know them better, try to get to a level of acceptance and love. I don’t want the conversation to end here with a video that went viral, as though everything is settled.”

Hackett remains hopeful for the future. He expressed his gratitude for the support he has received and his optimism for what lies ahead.

“This is my second year in the Twin Cities after moving from Oklahoma City, and things are very different here,” he said. “The politics and overall vibe are different. I treasure and love Oklahoma City, but Minneapolis is unique. The level of acceptance and love I’ve felt, especially after this announcement, has been overwhelming.”

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Christopher Wiggins

Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).
Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).