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Time for Anderson Cooper to reveal his truth

TV journalist has ethical obligation to be honest

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I’ve never met the Emmy and Peabody award-winning journalist and TV talk show host Anderson Cooper. Yet, he’s revealed so much about himself over the years, and especially on his new syndicated TV talk show “Anderson,” that I feel he and I (everyone in TV Land) could almost be his BFF.

We know that Cooper’s father died when he was 10; that his 23-year-old brother committed suicide in 1988; that Cooper’s dog is named Molly; that at age 11, he hung out with his mother Gloria Vanderbilt and Michael Jackson at Studio 54; and that, as Cooper told Sarah Jessica Parker when she was on his show, he believes his giggle is like that of a “13-year-old girl meeting Justin Bieber for the first time.” This week, we watched Cooper and his mom on “Anderson” talk openly about the losses their family has suffered.

Yet, despite all of his up-close-and-personal revelations, Cooper, who along with hosting his new show, anchors the news program “Anderson Cooper 360″ on CNN and reports part-time for “60 Minutes” on CBS, still withholds the big reveal: his sexual orientation.

The likelihood that he’s gay is an open secret. In 2007 “Out” magazine named him one of the 50 “Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America.” The Washington Post has mentioned Cooper’s “undetermined sexuality.” Even my 84-year-old stepmother Jean, an avid Cooper fan, living in a small town outside the LGBT community and media buzz, seems in the know about Cooper’s queer quotient. “Anderson’s good looking and talented,” Jean told me over the telephone. “He’s gay, I like him!”

Still, Cooper remains closeted.  “I just don’t talk about my personal life,” he has told interviewers. “The whole thing about being a reporter is that you’re supposed to be an observer and to be able to adapt to any group you’re in, and I don’t want to do anything that threatens that.”

If Cooper were an actor, athlete, famous chef, musician or other type of celebrity, I wouldn’t call on him to disclose his sexual orientation.

It’s wonderful (and often brave) when entertainers, sports figures or others in the public eye come out. Even if they do so sometimes to get publicity. By coming out, they help straight folks get to know us and are role models for LGBT youth. But even as I watch the out lesbian Jane Lynch host the Emmys, I know that it’s often still far from easy, famous or not, to be open about being queer.

Yet people in the entertainment industry — whether in Hollywood, on Broadway or TV or in sports aren’t under an ethical obligation to come out. Their job is to entertain us. Through the work, they strive to amuse us, to move us, to engage us, to enthrall us. When we see their movies, go to their concerts, attend their ball games, or watch their TV shows, we expect these entertainers and athletes to put on a great show — to play a good game. We don’t expect them to report the truth about our world to us.

But truth-telling is what we expect from journalists. No matter the medium (print, TV, radio or the web), or whether the reporter is a “working” journalist or a celeb like Cooper, we look for journalists to report the facts. As the renowned columnist Walter Lippmann said, “There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth.”

As journalists, we prod our sources to reveal their true stories — even if this means revealing personal matters that sometimes aren’t comfortable to disclose. We strive to tell the truth about ourselves.

Because he is a journalist, Cooper has an ethical obligation to be open about his sexual orientation. As a reporter and interviewer, he works to break down secrecy and obfuscation.

Isn’t it time for Cooper to report the truth about himself?

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. laurelboy2

    September 22, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    I dispute your assertion that “…because he is a journalist, Cooper has an ethical obligation to be open about his sexual orientation. As a reporter and interviewer, he works to break down secrecy and obfuscation.” Quite frankly, it’s no one’s business much less yours. What if he were a colon cancer/medical reporter, would he be compelled to reveal the results of his most recent colonoscopy? HIV status? Whether he’s been exposed to HPV and has or has had anal warts? Think again.

  2. Juggernaut

    September 22, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    If he said he don’t want to talk about his sexuality, then we as bystanders should let him be. Reporters are humans as well. Who cares if he is gay or not, he would be a handsome one in either way. I like and respect his works, daytime or prime time. And I think people who care about him enough to question him in public about his sexuality should at least give him the respect he deserves. It’s a thin line between curious and abnoxious.

  3. Steph

    September 22, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    I never understood the whole coming out of the closet thing. Why does anyone – famous or otherwise – have to announce their sexual orientation; It is none of our business. Anderson Cooper is a journalist who, just like me and you, has the right to keep his private life PRIVATE. He, and he alone, should decide what he does and does not share with the rest of the world.

  4. Jeff

    September 22, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    My issue with Anderson is that he’s been so open about everything else in his life except being gay. He acts like he wants and needs a private life to be an effective journalist, but the only topic really off the table is his sexual orientation. I know more about Anderson than any other news anchor type person except Katie Couric and Barbara Walters. He’s always talking about his private life…except about being gay.

    I think the reason he needs to come out is because everyone should come out. There really is no reason for anyone to stay in the closet in America unless they’re in a situation where doing so could harm them. People like Anderson, by coming out, would set an example that being gay is OK and nothing to hide. By not coming out as gay, but having so many people know that he’s gay, only makes it seem like it’s a dirty secret, something to be ashamed of.

    • Cate

      September 23, 2011 at 1:26 am

      Anderson travels to dangerous places where being gay is NOT okay. Perhaps he has his reasons and it’s none of our business. I swear I cannot understand why people are so interested.

    • kayleen Renee Cooper schmitz

      March 26, 2012 at 11:54 am

      Anderson Cooper is not gay and people need to leave him alone.
      K an Anderson fan in Minnesota

  5. bklly

    September 22, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    If you honestly believed journalists have an ethical obligation to be open about their sexual orientation you would be demanding all the other gay and lesbian people on news programs be open about their sexuality and outing all of them over it, not reserving this for Anderson Cooper the way it always is. What about people like Robin Roberts, Shepard Smith, and David Muir?

    Anderson Cooper isn’t lying, he is declining to give out some personal information in the media and on TV. If that’s not acceptable then it seems journalists are unethical if they decline to give out any number of personal things to the public such as who they vote for or whether they’ve had an abortion.

  6. Cate

    September 23, 2011 at 1:24 am

    I hope he never comes out because of people like you. It’s harassment what people are doing to him. Has anyone ever made you proclaim you’re straight? It’s a HUGE double standard. Perhaps Mr. Cooper would rather not reveal he’s gay because he reports from dangerous places where being gay is NOT okay. You don’t know, and it’s none of your business. It’s not just outright bullying that’s a problem, it’s people like you that think you can force someone to be public when they don’t want to be. Think about that.

  7. Richard Williams

    September 23, 2011 at 8:58 am

    For decades we (the gay community) have been saying that the government (and by extension everyone else) should stay out of peoples bedrooms. Yet for some unknown reason, some members of that community are saying that WE should be allowed into Anderson Coopers bedroom. Why? If other people have no business knowing about our bedroom, we have no right to know about anyone else’s bedroom.

    Mr. Cooper is a public figure, but he should still have a choice. If he came out as heterosexual, you wouldn’t believe hime anyway. Only one answer is acceptable for the the gay community. When Mr. Cooper wishes to discuss his sexuality, he will let us know. In the interim, it’s really no one else’s business. That is, unless what happens in our bedrooms is everyone else’s business.

    • Cate

      September 23, 2011 at 11:28 am

      This is a brilliant comment and you are exactly right. Isn’t fairness and equality exactly what we’re fighting for? The right to make our own decisions and to keep our private lives private if we so choose? Anderson is being harassed IMO, and what sucks the most, is that it’s by our own community.

  8. Bob

    September 23, 2011 at 9:20 am

    “Because he is a journalist, Cooper has an ethical obligation to be open about his sexual orientation.”

    Seriously? He has an “ETHICAL OBLIGATION” to tell you who he sleeps with? Does Cooper also have the moral duty to inform you of what positions he likes as well? The reporters aren’t the story – any journalist will tell you that.

  9. Whats the big deal!

    September 24, 2011 at 12:25 am

    As a straight woman it’s strange to me that straight people don’t have to come OUT of the closet and confess there gender preferences so why do gay people have to. If he’s a private person that is HIS business and no ones else.

  10. Joey O'H

    October 7, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Anderson’ sexuality has always been in question even though he’s “out” without ever proclaiming being “out.” I believe Anderson will reveal his sexuality in November. It seems rather strange people ar calling for him to come out when he already is, but I suppose people want that official “out” from Anderson and it will finally end the speculation and those who need to know will go with their lives.

  11. Butterfly

    October 13, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    No, I don’t think so. First, you presume to know Cooper’s truth. You don’t know his sexual preference unless he told you or you had sex with him. Even those are not always clear indicators as many people don’t understand or accept their own sexuality. You are also treating his decision whether to reveal it as one that belongs to the GLBT movement for social and legal recognition. It doesn’t. Sexuality is a personal matter. And if you think that when straight individuals are confronted with the knowledge that persons whom they know to be intelligent, accomplished and strong contributors to their communities are GLB or T, they will “see the light” you are wrong. Homophobia is not that rational. Many people reject others solely on the basis that their sexuality differs from their own. That’s how prejudice works. Now, there are some for whom that knowledge could be enlightening. But it’s not a risk I’d ask anyone to take- – -unless he or she chose to.

  12. Michael Thomas Angelo

    March 12, 2012 at 6:35 am

    I had a similar viewpoint and was very vocal about my opinion on this matter when Sean Hayes was in the closet because I believed it was his responsibility as a public figure to be truthful about his sexuality so that he could influence others to proudly proclaim their own truth. But I empathize with Anderson’s reluctance even though I think that by remaining silent, he is sending a message that being gay is something to be ashamed of. He would be able to do so much good because of his far reaching influence if he was public about that part of himself. In the end, it is a personal choice but I believe the positives outweigh the negatives in this situation. I would love to be able to include him as a member of my team.

  13. CrossCountryMan

    May 25, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Much Ado About NADA!

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Opinions

Opinion | LGBTQ Virginians advocate D.C. statehood

The right of all Americans to be part of our democratic society

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My hometown will always be Washington, D.C. It’s the place where I was born and spent all of the first seven days of my life. As a lifelong Virginian however, where I live and attended schools, I straddle two communities important to me. 

As a business owner of 30 years in Washington, D.C., I pay many of my taxes and payroll taxes to the Nation’s Capital while I also pay income tax to Virginia where I’m a citizen.

Most important of all, as a gay Virginia voter, I can think of few lifelong political goals more important to me than achieving statehood for Washington, D.C. One of the compelling reasons I still make my home in Virginia and cross the Potomac River every day of my life, is because of my right as a Virginian to vote for two U.S. senators and for a member of the House of Representatives with the power to vote in Congress.

(It is still shocking to know that, with Washington, D.C. statehood still beyond grasp, the Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton who represents D.C. in the U.S. House of Representatives, has never yet had the authority to vote on the floor of the House.)

At an early age, I was dumbfounded to know that D.C. then did not even have a local government. We lacked an elected mayor and city council, with almost all decisions for the District of Columbia made by the federal government. Yet today, even with a mayor and local government in place, it is breathtaking to know that my friends, neighbors and co-workers still have zero voice in the Capitol and no one to vote for them – and for us – in Congress.

Consider that one of the world’s most diverse and educated cities has so often been bullied by extreme conservative leaders on Capitol Hill who – whenever possible – turn back the clock for D.C. citizens on voting rights, abortion rights, gun measures and our civil rights including LGBTQ equality. Not a single voter in D.C. has much, if any, say over any of those decisions.

The absence of statehood and the lack of real voting rights means that the unforgivable strains of racism and homophobia often held sway not just for Washington D.C., but in denying the United States a true progressive majority on Capitol Hill too. 

Virginians get it. In the past decade, we’ve worked very hard in every county and city in the commonwealth to turn our regressive political past into a bright blue political majority. We have elected LGBTQ candidates to state and local offices in unprecedented numbers. Our vote is our power.

More significantly, through the work of Equality Virginia and its many allies, we are repealing scores of anti-LGBTQ measures and reforming our statutes and constitution to secure equal rights as LGBTQ voters, adoptive parents, married couples, students, and citizens. Doesn’t Washington, D.C. deserve that future?

Virginia needs more states – like D.C. – to join forces and represent all Americans. To achieve this, and to defeat or neuter the anti-democratic Senate filibuster rule, we need our friends, allies and neighbors, the citizens of Washington, D.C. to share in our democratic ambitions.

Long ago, Washington, D.C. resident, abolitionist and civil rights leader, Frederick Douglass declared that “the District is the one spot where there is no government for the people, of the people, and by the people. Washington, D.C. residents pay taxes, just like residents of Nevada, California or any other state. Washington, D.C. residents have fought and died in every American war just like residents of Ohio, Kentucky or any other state. The District deserves statehood and Congress should act to grant it.” 

Speaking for LGBTQ Virginians, we agree. Conferring statehood is not a gift nor a blessing from the rest of us, but instead, it is the absolute right of all Americans to be part of our democratic society. As LGBTQ Americans, if we are to pass the Equality Act and other fundamental civil rights measures, we need the State of Washington, D.C. and its voters by our side.

Bob Witeck is a longtime LGBTQ civil rights advocate, entrepreneur, and Virginian, with long roots and longstanding ties to D.C.

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Opinion | Representation matters: The gayest Olympics yet

From one out athlete to more than 160 in just 33 years

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OK, I really want a Tom Daley cardigan. The now gold-medal Olympian told Britain’s The Guardian that he took up crocheting during the pandemic. He even has an Instagram page dedicated to his knit creations, MadeWithLoveByTomDaley. It’s all very adorable; it’s all very Tom Daley. 

All that aside, you’d have to be practically heartless to not feel something when Tom Daley and his diving partner Matty Lee won the gold on Monday in the men’s synchronized 10-meter diving competition, placing just 1.23 points ahead of the Chinese. And then seeing him with tears in his eyes on the podium as “God Save the Queen” played. Later that week, he knitted a little bag featuring the Union Jack to hold and protect his medal. So very wholesome

Daley is certainly one of the highest profile LGBTQ athletes in these games. Besides the diver, the 2020 Summer Olympics, now in 2021 because of the pandemic, are hosting more than 160 out athletes. A record to be sure, but calling it a record does it somewhat of an injustice. The United States sent the first out athlete to the 1988 Summer Olympics, Robert Dover an equestrian rider competing in dressage. Dover remained the only out (sharing the title once in 1996 with Australian diver Craig Rogerson) for 10 years. Then, during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the number of out athletes jumped to 15. London’s 2012 Olympics saw the number increase to 23. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro saw the number jump to 68 out athletes. And now we’re at over 160. 

So you get the trend building here. From one out athlete to more than 160. So very far, so very fast. And competing in everything from handball to sailing to golf to skateboarding. Also, noteworthy, New Zealand sent the first trans athlete, weightlifter Laurel Hubbard. These are but numbers and names, but to be sure, this sort of representation, this sort of visibility, is hugely important. Not just for athletes coming up behind them, but let’s think too of those out there, not yet even out, maybe watching in their parents’ living room. Seeing Tom Daley thank his husband, mention their son, this sort of queer normality being broadcast as if it is both groundbreaking and at the same time nothing at all — the importance of this cannot be overstated. 

On top of that, growing up gay, how many times were we all told, whether outright or simply implied, that sports were more or less off limits to us. Meant to display the peaks of gender and ability, sports were not meant for those who couldn’t fit neatly into that narrative. But it appears that that narrative is slowly becoming undone. Just look beyond the Olympics, to the wider world of sports. Earlier this summer, pro-football’s Carl Nassib came out.   

And maybe I’m just of a generation that marvels at the destruction of each and every boundary as they come down. We had so very little as far as representation back then. Now to see it all, and in so many different sports, you can’t help but to wonder what the future will hold for us; and it really delights the imagination, doesn’t it? 

It is the gayest Olympics yet. And if the trend laid out above continues, it will only get gayer as the years go on. And if it’s a barometer for anything, I think we will see a lot of things getting a bit gayer from now on.

Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer. He contributes regularly to the Blade.

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Opinion | Blame Mayor Bowser for violence epidemic?

In a word, ‘no,’ as the problem is nationwide

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The simple answer to the question “Does the Mayor get the blame for the violence epidemic?” is NO! This is not something that can be laid at any one person’s feet. The epidemic of gun violence is gripping the entire nation. 

The frustration and outrage I and everyone else feels are palpable. It’s frightening when you hear gunshots in your neighborhood. It makes bigger headlines when the shots fired are in neighborhoods not used to that like the recent shooting on 14th and Riggs, N.W. When the shots rang out patrons of upscale restaurants like Le Diplomate ran or ducked under their tables for cover. When shots were fired outside Nationals stadium the national media lit up to report it. The truth is we must have the same outrage every time shots are fired and people hurt or killed in any neighborhood of our city.  

Trying to lay the blame for this at the feet of the mayor, as some people on social media and in opinion and news columns in the Washington Post are doing is wrong. Some would have you believe the mayor is just sitting by and allowing the violence to happen. There are pleas “Mayor Bowser do something!” as if she could wave a magic wand and the shootings will stop. 

In a recent Washington Post column, “Bowser pressed to act after shootings,” a number of Council members are quoted including Chairman Phil Mendelson, Ward 2 member Brooke Pinto, Ward 4 member Janeese Lewis George, At-large member Anita Bonds and Ward 5 member Kenyan McDuffie. They all call for something to be done but not one of them says what they would do. It’s clear they are as frustrated and outraged as the rest of us but have no easy answers. What is clear is casting blame on the mayor and police commissioner won’t help to stop the violence and shootings. 

Again, this epidemic of violence isn’t just an issue for D.C. but a national epidemic. Recently our mayor sat beside the president at a White House meeting called to discuss what can be done about this with mayors and law enforcement officials from around the nation. No one from the president down had an answer that can make it stop right away. Many in D.C. would be surprised at the ranking of the 50 cities with the most violent crime per 100,000 residents showing D.C. with 977 violent crimes per 100,000 residents at number 27 behind cities like Rockford, Ill., Anchorage, Ala., and Milwaukee, Wisc. Crime in nearly all those cities and murder rates have gone up, in many cases dramatically, since the pandemic. 

The solution to ending gun violence is to get the guns out of the hands of those who are using them for crime but that is easy to say and much harder to do. We know ending poverty will make a difference. Giving every child a chance at a better education and ensuring real opportunities for every young person will make a difference. We must also hold people responsible for the serious crimes they commit and often courts are a system of revolving door justice where we find the same people arrested for a serious crime back on the street committing another one and the same gun used for multiple crimes.

There are anti-crime programs that might work but they need buy-in from the entire community including activists and the clergy who must work in concert with our political leadership. D.C. is funding a host of programs including ‘violence disrupters,’ job training, and  mental health and substance abuse programs. They all need more money and more support. 

In D.C., we have only 16 elected officials with real power; the Council, the mayor, the attorney general and our congressional representative. We have community leaders elected to local ANCs. When members of the council attack the mayor, some simply to make political hay for their own future election, it won’t solve any problems. 

This must be viewed as a crisis and our 16 elected leaders should sit down, agree to a series of anti-crime programs and efforts they will adequately fund, and stop attacking each other. Once they agree on the programs to fund they should bring together ANC members from across the city to a meeting at the convention center and work out a plan for what each can do to move us forward to safer neighborhoods. 

We must work together as one if we are to succeed in making life safer and better for all. 

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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