Anderson Cooper, the internationally acclaimed journalist and war correspondent with the Cable News Network, disclosed publicly for the first time on Monday that he’s gay, ending years of speculation by the public and prodding by gay activists that he come out.
“The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud,” Cooper wrote in a statement published July 2 in The Daily Beast, an online news site with millions of readers.
Gay conservative advocate and commentator Andrew Sullivan posted Cooper’s statement in his regularly published column “The Dish,” on online news site, The Daily Beast.
Sullivan explained in his column that he invited Cooper to comment on an article published last week in Entertainment Weekly, which reported how the public reaction to gay people in public life who come out has become less of a big deal that in past years.
“Andrew, as you know, the issue you raise is one that I’ve thought about for years,” Cooper wrote in an email to Sullivan, which he gave Sullivan permission to publish.
“Even though my job puts me in the public eye, I have tried to maintain some level of privacy in my life,” Cooper wrote. “Part of that has been for purely personal reasons. I think most people want some privacy for themselves and the people they’re close to.”
Cooper said that from a professional standpoint, he believed keeping his personal life private would better enable him to report on difficult-to-cover stories such as wars that have taken him to places that have placed him and the CNN staff in danger.
“I’ve always believed that who a reporter votes for, what religion they are, who they love, should not be something they have to discuss publicly,” Cooper wrote in his email. “As long as a journalist shows fairness and honesty in his or her work their private life shouldn’t matter. I’ve stuck to those principles for my entire professional career, even when I’ve been directly asked ‘the gay question,’ which happens occasionally,” he said.
“Recently, however, I’ve begun to consider whether the unintended outcomes of maintaining my privacy outweigh personal and profession principle,” he continued. “It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something – something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true.”
Cooper said he has “always been very open and honest” about his sexual orientation with his friends, family and professional colleagues. He said that since his early days as a reporter “I have worked hard to accurately and fairly portray gay and lesbian people in the media and to fairly and accurately portray those who for whatever reason disapprove of them.”
Herndon Graddick, president of Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, an LGBT media watchdog group, called Cooper’s official coming out an important development.
“Even prior to coming out publicly, Anderson’s terrific work has raised awareness of inequalities facing LGBT people,” Graddick said in a statement. “I’m proud to call him my friend. He’s a role model to millions and now will inspire countless others.”
Fred Sainz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, called Cooper’s statement “a big deal.”
“The fact that it will receive scant negative attention – and his career will more than likely be enhanced and his relationship with his viewers strengthened – is the real victory,” Sainz said.
“It’s proof that our culture has changed for the better, that one of our country’s most prominent journalists can share an important aspect of his life without retribution.”
Cooper for years has been among CNN’s most prominent reporters covering stories ranging from foreign wars to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans.
Earlier this year GLAAD named Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper’s nightly news program on CNN, as the recipient of its annual GLAAD Media Award for the category of Outstanding TV Journalism – Newsmagazine.
A spokesperson for CNN couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.