Why hasn’t Shepard Smith come out yet?
An interesting question in light of his sky-high Marie’s Crisis tab, that he’s Visible From Space and has been “outed” more times than Kevin Spacey.
The affable Fox News anchor has a longtime boyfriend, ranks among Fox’s most senior talent, and lives in New York City. It could be, of course, that he’s just a very private person, or—as the Times argued in October—that public attitudes have changed and nobody cares if a famous figure is gay.
Or it could be that, when Smith tried to come out last year, Fox silenced and punished him.
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.”
Very Nancy Reagan.
Smith, one of Ailes’s first and most loyal disciples, acquiesced to his boss’s demand, and dropped the matter. But the discussion worried enough Fox executives to prompt Smith’s removal, in September 2013, from the channel’s coveted prime-time lineup. According to a Fox insider with direct knowledge of negotiations, Smith’s desire to come out was a large factor in the dramatic move.
“They tried to play it up as a big promotion,” the insider said. “But everyone knew that Shep was getting demoted. And the coming out thing was a significant part of that.”
It’s difficult to square all of this with Smith’s characterization of Ailes as an uncommonly honest businessman, a second father who would never hurt him. “Roger has always had my back and never lied to me and never told me what to say,” Smith said in 2009.
Yet Smith’s demotion wasn’t actually Ailes’s idea to begin with. Nor was Ailes very surprised when Smith finally approached him. “Roger has known Shep has been gay for a long time,” a current Fox staffer said. So why was Ailes suddenly afraid of everyone else knowing, too?
What every sentient life-form already knew.
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, when 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.)
And Daddy Ailes will do nothing to stop him Shep. You’ve got a decision to make, baby — Gio or the Job.
Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes and anchor Shepard Smith are calling a Gawker story published this morning “100% false and a complete fabrication.” The story titled “How Fox News Shoved Shepard Smith Back Into The Closet,” is based on anonymous sources who claim Smith wanted to reveal his sexuality, but was stopped by Fox News executives, including Bill Shine, who heads up FNC’s opinion programming.
The Gawker story claims Shine “flipped out,” when Smith brought his partner to a July 4, 2013 party at Ailes’ upstate estate, and later called a meeting to discuss what to do. Fox News tells us Shine wasn’t at that party (he was in Charleston, South Carolina on vacation with his family) and emphatically denies any such meeting occurred.
Gawker claims the events of the July 4th party led to Smith being “demoted.” But, Ailes and Smith had been discussing a new contract with Smith as early as last spring, and singed in June, leading to the addition of the Fox News Deck and changes to primetime.
“This story is 100% false and a complete fabrication,” write Ailes and Smith in a joint statement. “As colleagues and close friends at Fox News for 18 years, our relationship has always been rooted in a mutual respect, deep admiration, loyalty, trust, and full support both professionally and personally.”
Smith works for the news side of FOX, which is run by Michael Clemente and Jay Wallace and not Bill Shine, who oversees programs like “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Hannity.” Shine released his own statement of support for Smith, which reads in part: “We have never asked Shep to discuss or not discuss his private life, and the notion of us having an issue with anyone’s sexuality is not only insulting, but pure fiction.” Shine’s full statement after the jump:
“Over the past 18 years, we’ve had the privilege of working with Shepard Smith throughout his incredible rise from a field reporter to chief news anchor and his recent promotion to managing editor,” Shine writes. “Throughout his entire tenure here, Roger Ailes and I have fully supported him in both a professional and personal capacity. We have never asked Shep to discuss or not discuss his private life, and the notion of us having an issue with anyone’s sexuality is not only insulting, but pure fiction. We renewed his contract in June 2013 based on this full support as well as his exemplary journalism. He’s the gold standard of this profession and we’re extremely proud to call him the face of our news division.”
100 PERCENT FALSE? So Shep ISN’T gay?
“Back to the closet if you want to keep your job!”