Ailes Told Shep Smith to Stay in the Closet

It’s long been known that Fox News anchor Shep Smith is gay, but he’s never announced that publicly. Gawker reports that there’s a reason for that: His boss, Roger Ailes, forbid him from coming out of the closet publicly during contract negotiations.

In the summer of 2013, according to multiple sources with knowledge of their exchange, Shepard Smith approached Fox News president Roger Ailes about publicly coming out. The newly attached anchor was eager, at the time, to finally acknowledge his sexuality. “It’s time,” he told Ailes and other colleagues. “It’s time.”

Instead, Ailes informed Smith that the network’s famously conservative audience would not tolerate a gay news anchor. Ailes’ answer was definitive: Smith could not say he’s gay.

“This came up during contract negotiations,” a Fox insider told Gawker. “Shep wanted to and was ready to come out, and Roger just said no.”…

A few weeks before approaching Ailes about coming out, Smith surprised Fox staffers by bringing his boyfriend, a 26-year-old Fox producer named Gio Graziano, to a company picnic at Ailes’s compound in Garrison, New York. Held annually on Independence Day weekend, the picnic is a small gathering—only executives, on-air talent, and their frontline producers are invited—so Smith likely felt comfortable bringing along his steady partner.

Despite the intimate venue, the new couple put several Fox executives on high alert. According to multiple sources with knowledge of the picnic, the most dramatic reaction came from Bill Shine, the channel’s Executive Vice President of Programming. Shine “flipped out,” one source said, after* Smith introduced Graziano to attendees. (Within and outside of Fox, Shine, who is 50 and grew up on Long Island, carries a reputation for insensitivity toward gay people. “He’s a major, major homophobe,” a Fox insider said.)

Back in New York City, Shine called a meeting among high-level executives to discuss a plan of action regarding Smith. “His fear was that Shep’s audience would implode,” said an individual familiar with the meeting, during which Shine forcefully argued against Smith coming out. His argument was simple: Our audience is not ready for a gay anchor.

Anyone surprised by this, raise your hand.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Trebuchet

    I’m surprised he’s gay, I guess. And that he could be gay and employed by Fox. Not at all surprised by their reaction, of course.

  • http://www.facebook.com/den.wilson d.c.wilson

    While I have no doubt that Ailes and Shine are both rabid homophobes based on everything I’ve era about them, in the interest of fairness, Shepard Smith has called the Gawker story “horseshit.”

    http://thedailybanter.com/2014/04/exclusive-shepard-smith-calls-gawker-story-horsesht-in-memo-to-staff/

  • Pierce R. Butler

    How has Smith handled coverage of gay-related news stories during his time at False Noise?

    If he dealt with them respectfully, how has he managed to keep his position this long?

    If he “reported” with the usual Murdoch bigotry, why haven’t the usual gay-rights watchdogs outed him with the jeers and derision any and every Faux employee deserves ipso facto?

  • sh3baproject

    im pretty sure faux’s audinence isnt even ready for a non white anchor.

  • cptdoom

    How has Smith handled coverage of gay-related news stories during his time at False Noise?

    If he dealt with them respectfully, how has he managed to keep his position this long?

    If he “reported” with the usual Murdoch bigotry, why haven’t the usual gay-rights watchdogs outed him with the jeers and derision any and every Faux employee deserves ipso facto?

    From what I’ve read (I don’t watch Faux News), he’s been better and more even-handed than most of the network’s talent as far as gay stories go, but that hasn’t stopped him from being outed several times by the LGBT press and bloggers. In fact, back in 2005 the Washington Blade outed both him and Anderson Cooper. (the story is no longer available on the Blade website, but here’s a link to a Daily Kos diary discussing it: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/10/22/158773/-Gay-Paper-quot-Outs-quot-Anderson-Cooper-and-Shephard-Smith).

    I’ve heard of his sexuality for years now, it’s widely known in gay circles, but the media typically won’t touch such a story unless and until there is definitive proof, which nearly always means the individual in question has to publicly announce their sexuality (yes, Queen Latifah, I’m looking at you).

  • Doug Little

    Well that explains why he is the most reasonable one on Fox News and why he doesn’t belong there.

  • http://cycleninja.blogspot.com cycleninja

    So what’s the gay equivalent of an Uncle Tom? A Shep Smith?

  • colnago80

    My position on outing is very simple. A homosexual should not be outed unless he;/she homo-bashes. Homo-bashers have forfeited their right to stay in the closet.

  • trog69

    Yep. If he doesn’t wish to come out, and hasn’t been a defender of gay-bashing or worse, then he shouldn’t have to divulge his sexual preferences.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    trog69 @ # 9: If he doesn’t wish to come out, and hasn’t been a defender of gay-bashing or worse…

    What do you call participating among, cheerleading for, sharing jokes with, and generally glad-handing all the rest of the lying homophboic (racist, sexist, etc) vermin at False Noise?

  • Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    I’m surprised he’s gay, I guess. And that he could be gay and employed by Fox.

    He’s just an actor, playing a role in a sitcom. I’d probably be uncomfortable with it myself, but that’s what compartmentalization is for.

  • mikeinohio

    If all this is true, then my guess is that his days at Fox are short lived. The ball is Smith’s court at this point. The moment he decides that living a public lie is no longer tenable, he will be out the door in short order. I cannot imagine that the Fox demographic, which is over 65 and almost exclusively white heterosexuals, could even stand the sound of his voice once the truth becomes public. The only way he could ever be accepted, once he has the tag of “homo” on his forehead, is to go all Glenn Beck in his on-air persona. As it is, he is already much too moderate in his reporting and views for almost all of the Fox audience. I will really be curious to see where he lands once he is able to actually be the “real” Shepherd Smith in his public life. It most definitely will not be at Fox News.

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    mikeinohio: “I cannot imagine that the Fox demographic, which is over 65 and almost exclusively white heterosexuals, could even stand the sound of his voice once the truth becomes public.”

    Where are they going to hear about it?

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    ““I cannot imagine that the Fox demographic, which is over 65 and almost exclusively white”

    Holy shit! I’ll be 65 in October and I’m WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY exclusively white (I tan like a vampire). Fuck! Five months and 22 days till demogeddon!

  • D. C. Sessions

    I will really be curious to see where he lands once he is able to actually be the “real” Shepherd Smith in his public life. It most definitely will not be at Fox News.

    Rumor has it that there’s going to be an opening at Comedy Central.

  • Trebuchet

    @Democommie: So you’re a year behind me. Don’t worry, there’s life after 65. AND you get a discount on the Washington State Ferries.

  • abb3w

    That definitely would seem to help explain this, back when Obama was “evolving” on gay marriage.

  • http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com SC (Salty Current), OM

    Rumor has it that there’s going to be an opening at Comedy Central.

    “Shep Reads Menus”

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    Trebuchet:

    I shop at a local thrift shop that’s run by Rescue Missions of Syracuse, NY and on Tuesdays they offer a 25% discount on all purchases for those who are over 62 or a military veteran. I always tell them that I’m both so I want 50% off. They always laugh and give me the 25%.

    The store is staffed by several indeterminate young people who rotate through at the rate of about 12 turns a year. The folks who run the place are nice, committed Christians who know I’m an atheist and are polite and respect my lack of belief (although at least one of them prays for me). They do the work that needs to be done, feeding and sheltering the people who would otherwise be hungry and cold–with, I’m told–a minimum of JESUSfication.

  • Pieter B, FCD

    Surprise, surprise. I didn’t think that there was much of an over-60 demographic here. I think I might be the oldest, though, at 68.5.

  • atheistblog

    I raise my hand. I didn’t know Shep is gay. I don’t care about anyone’s sexuality, so I never cared about who’s who.