Talk show host Wendy Williams is under fire again, this time for a program about the recent “catfishing” scam perpetrated by a former contestant on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Sherry Pie (whose non-drag name is Joey Gugliemelli) was exposed on Facebook earlier this month by an aspiring performer, Ben Shimkus, who posted what he called “a weird story” about the competitor on the popular reality show’s current season. Several other young male actors came forward soon afterward with similar tales, with Gugliemelli issuing an apology a few days later.
Gugliemelli was disqualified from “Drag Race” as a result of the incident, although the majority of the season had already been filmed and episodes featuring the disgraced contestant continue to air – despite the subsequent revelation of Gugliemelli’s long history of fraudulence and sexual misconduct allegations, who for years had used false identities to pressure people into performing sexual acts on video in hopes of a non-existent casting opportunity.
The talk show host enters the picture because of a recent episode of “The Wendy Williams Show” on which she discussed the controversy with comedian and personality Michael Yo during a segment called “Inside Scoop.”
During the conversation, Yo summed up the story as follows:
“So this Ben guy, said that Sherry Pie catfished him, said she was a casting director, would send emails to him, back and forth, getting him to do lewd things…like masturbating on audition tapes. Is that lewd enough for you?”
He then went on:
“I mean, why didn’t these people do research? I’m not blaming them, but they’re young, the guys are young – they’re 23, 24 years old, trying to get their big break…so, man, but you have to do the research.”
Williams and Yo’s glib treatment of the controversy went so far as giggling over the fake name Gugliemelli had used for one of non-existent movies he had enticed his victims with – “Bulk.”
Shimkus wrote about the experience of watching the segment, which he described as “dismissive and vapid,” in an article penned for GayCities:
“When I watched this video clip of Michael Yo getting an audience to laugh at my story, I immediately became angry. With time to reflect, I am attempting to maintain moral integrity while not becoming bitter about this situation that has put me on national television, I’ve found other ways to interpret this moment.
“The nine of us who came forward told flagrant accusations of sexual harassment, and when we spoke out together, it was the queer and queer ally community who believed us, and supported us. I have received messages directly from hundreds of people, who have been so generous and shared their stories.
“We have a lot of work to do to advance our conversations around how we treat people who speak out against sexual harassment and coercion.”
Following the article, many voices in the LGBTQ community called for Williams’ syndicated talk show to be cancelled, spreading the hashtag #cancelwendywilliams on social media.
The incident is the latest in a string of tone deaf missteps that have plagued up for the host, who last month was pressured to apologize for comments she made that were seen as anti-LGBTQ.
“The Wendy Williams Show,” which is on temporary hiatus due to the coronavirus outbreak, could not be reached for comment.