Daniel Franzese, a comedian and star of Mean Girls and Looking, says he was fired from a hosting gig at a Catholic university for being gay.
In a video posted Thursday on his YouTube channel, Franzese says he was approached by a representative for Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, about him hosting the school’s upcoming Mr. Walsh Pageant. A deal for Franzese to host was reached February 18.
“Today I was fired from Walsh University in Ohio for being gay,” he says. In the nearly six- minute video, Franzese reads an email he says he got from the school’s director of student activities.
“'I'm following up via email from my conversation with Gary [Franzese’s manager],'” he reads. “'Regarding how the institution has decided to no longer approve the contract for Daniel. I'm incredibly disappointed and sincerely apologetic, for this is, I know, unprofessional and clearly based on personal beliefs of the higher administration. Please give Danny my sincerest apologies.'”
Franzese says the firing is a result of Pope Francis’s recent comments reiterating that the Catholic Church cannot bless or support same-sex unions. He was notified of his firing the day after the pope made those comments.
He also calls out tax-exempt institutions using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as an excuse to discriminate. “It can cause a ripple effect of discrimination and bigotry to further alienate and harm LGBTQ people and our livelihoods,” he says.
“To the LGBTQ students at Walsh, because I know you’re there, I am so sorry that I can’t be there with you. I imagine that you’re feeling frustrated and isolated right now. But you must know that god knows everything about you and loves you just as you are. No Vatican statement can change that, no university action can change that. Nothing can separate us from the love of god and Jesus Christ.”
Out, a sister publication to The Advocate, reached out to the university and received a comment. While university officials confirmed they were in talks with Franzese to host the pageant, they denied firing him because he is gay.
“Mr. Daniel Franzese has neither been employed nor under contract for any services in any form at any time with Walsh University,” they said. “The email he cites from Director of Student Activities and Leadership Anna Borges reflects her personal views.”
Franzese said that after the pandemic he plans to put on a benefit show for the Trevor Project, which assists LGBTQ+ youth in crisis, at the gay bar nearest to Walsh’s campus. Anyone with a Walsh student ID will be admitted for free.