Sydney Morning Herald admits it pushed Rebel Wilson to come out

Rebel Wilson

Rebel Wilson’s announcement that she’s in a relationship with designer Ramona Agruma was warmly welcomed this week after the actor shared the news on her Instagram page, but the Sydney Morning Herald has now revealed that they approached Wilson and may have triggered her decision to come out.

The newspaper then goes on to complain about the actor coming out all by herself before they had the chance to publish their story.

In an opinion piece published by the Sydney Morning Herald columnist Andrew Hornery shared that they had approached Wilson two days before her revelation informing her they were planning on writing an article about her relationship.

Hornery describes the newspaper’s decision to allow the actor to give comment on their story as “a big mistake”, saying she released the information herself and “gazumped” them.

The paper also accuses Wilson of sending friend actor Hugh Sheridan to head out and do radio interviews about how he introduced the couple six months ago, further undermining their potential story.

The article highlights that Wilson had previously successfully sued Woman’s Day when they published defamatory stories about her, and at the time had bemoaned the lack of journalistic standards. Hornery said it was “underwhelming” that the actor had ignored their requests for comment about their story.

The columnist says in a “perfect world” outing celebrities would be redundant, but justified outing Wilson because “we do not live in a perfect world”. The article also suggests that because Wilson had acknowledged her previous heterosexual relationships on social media her same-sex relationship should also be treated as public information.

“Of course who anyone dates in their business, but Wilson happily fed such prurient interest when she had a hunky boyfriend on her arm” Hornery wrote.

“This is understood to be Wilson’s first same-sex relationship, at age 42 and in an era where same-sex marriage is legal in many parts of the world and – thanks to decades of battling for marriage equality – sexual orientation is no longer something to be hidden, even in Hollywood.

“Up to now Wilson had publicly identified as a heterosexual woman, It is unlikely that she would have experienced the sort of discrimination let alone homophobia – subconscious or overt – that sadly still affects so many gay, lesbian and non-hetero people.” Hornery said.

BBC journalist Megha Mohan was one of many journalists expressing shock at the newspaper’s position, on Twitter she said she was astonished that in 2022 a newspaper was still giving celebrities a deadline before outing them, saying it was a practice she thought had been left with the gutter press of the 1990s.

Stephanie H Convery, who writes about inequality for The Guardian also shared her alarm about the newspaper’s stance.

“Wait, the SMH is mad because they were going to out Rebel Wilson and when they told her they were going to, she did it herself instead? Is this the 1960s? Who in a reputable paper thinks it’s their right to forcibly out someone? How the fuck is that in the public interest?” Convery posted to Twitter. 

Journalist Kate Doak also said nobody should be forced to come out.

“As a journalist who is openly gay, transitioned from male to female and was outed in my early 20’s, I’m heartbroken to see this still happening today. LGBTIQ+ people go through a lot, and regardless of whether they’re Rebel Wilson, a kid or 80, shouldn’t have to face this.” 

Joe Ball, the CEO of Switchboard Victoria, shared his personal thoughts on the newspaper’s actions.

“Coming out has always been part of LGBTIQ+ rights movements, visibility creates acceptance and understanding. Being outed – the inverse, it creates shame, stigma and repression. Don’t out people, help change the world so no one needs to be in or out.” Ball said.

Online members of the LGBTIQA+ communities said the column, which suggests contacting people before outing them is a mistake, devalued the newspaper’s 2016 apology to marchers in the original Mardi Gras protest. In 1978 the newspaper had published the names of all the people arrested at the protest for gay rights, which had lead to many of them being publicly outed, losing employment and in some cases being kicked out of home.

““We acknowledge and apologise for the hurt and suffering that reporting caused. It would never happen today.” then editor Darren Goodsir said.

Journalists and celebrities speak about the challenges of being ‘outed’ 

Australian sports report Megan Barnard recently spoke about her experience of being publicly outed by a colleague.

“Coming out is a process and should never be taken out of someone’s hand. Nor should anyone be spoken about in such a degrading manner. I hope my experience can be a catalyst for change in not just the sports industry, but in every industry.” Barnard said in a post to Instagram.

Fox Sports sacked her colleague Tom Morris after a series of social media posts came to light, including one where he made disparaging comments about Barnard’s sexuality, revealing she was a lesbian.

“Fortunately, I am at a place in my life where I am comfortable with who I am and I can handle something deeply personal becoming public,” Barnard said at the time, but she also highlighted a few years earlier she would not have been in a position to cope with the attention on her personal life.

Music star Mark Feehily has also recently spoken about his coming out experience that was forced by a tabloid newspaper. The Westlife singer said nobody should ever be forced to come out.

“Thankfully in the media industry, they wouldn’t even think about doing something like that now. It is something that used to happen twenty years ago, but it doesn’t happen now.” Feehily said back in May.

Update: 12-06-2022 3:40pm Bevan Shields, the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald has responded to criticism of the newspaper’s approach saying it had they had never intended to ‘out’ Rebel Wilson when they approached her about her same-sex relationship. Shields says the subsequent opinion piece from writer Andrew Hornery was not a standard news story, but an opinion piece offering readers insight into Wilson and her PR team.  

OIP Staff


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