Anderson Cooper very cautiously came out of the closet on TV’s Take Out the Trash Day in an email to longtime pal/Daily Beast columnist-blogger Andrew Sullivan.
“The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud,” Cooper said in the email, which Sullivan said he had Cooper’s permission to share with the world.
Cooper’s announcement appears to have been carefully, cautiously timed: The day before a national holiday — known in the TV industry as Take Out the Trash Day — is when potentially hot-and-maybe-not-in-a-good-way news is unveiled, in hopes that lots of people are on vacation and won’t notice. (With Independence Day falling on a Wednesday this year, both Monday and Tuesday are considered Take Out the Trash Days.)
In its coverage of the news, ABC, where Cooper worked as a “Mole” host and news correspondent before moving to cable, noted that “the 45-year-old CNN journalist has dodged questions about his sexuality in the public eye.”
Sullivan explained in his Monday morning post that he got in touch with Cooper for “reasons that are probably obvious to most”: Entertainment Weekly just published an article called “The New Art of Coming Out: How Gay Stars Are Now Carefully — and Surprisingly — Going Public About Their Private Lives.”
In response, Cooper dashed off one of those email responses to a pal that began: “Andrew, as you know, the issue you raise is one that I’ve thought about for years. Even though my job puts me in the public eye, I have tried to maintain some level of privacy in my life. Part of that has been for purely personal reasons. I think most people want some privacy for themselves and the people they are close to.
“But I’ve also wanted to retain some privacy for professional reasons,” continued Cooper, whose email was starting to quack a lot like a news release.
“Since I started as a reporter in war zones 20 years ago, I’ve often found myself in some very dangerous places. For my safety and the safety of those I work with, I try to blend in as much as possible, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people’s stories, and not my own. I have found that sometimes the less an interview subject knows about me, the better I can safely and effectively do my job as a journalist.
“I’ve always believed that who a reporter votes for, what religion they are, who they love, should not be something they have to discuss publicly,” Cooper continued.
“As long as a journalist shows fairness and honesty in his or her work, their private life shouldn’t matter. I’ve stuck to those principles for my entire professional career, even when I’ve been directly asked ‘the gay question,’ which happens occasionally.”
Cooper also noted that he did not address “my sexual orientation” in the memoir he wrote several years ago, “because it was a book focused on war, disasters, loss and survival. I didn’t set out to write about other aspects of my life.”
(That Entertainment Weekly article mentioned the then-still-not-saying Cooper just once, noting that the TV critic for the New York Times had “dared to belittle Anderson Cooper during the first week of his syndicated talk show, complaining that ‘the one thing he hasn’t done yet — and the lacuna grows more obvious and awkward with each show — is talk about his love life. It’s hard to see how he can continue to leave that out selectively.’ ”
Of course, Cooper’s sexual orientation has been the subject of debate for years, because, by gum, this is America and that’s how we roll.
In 2005, he told New York Magazine: “I understand why people might be interested. But I just don’t talk about my personal life.” In 2007, Out magazine featured Cooper’s face on the cover of its “Glass Closet” issue.
Cooper’s announcement came on TV’s Take Out the Trash Day, when industry suits who have not developed a hit series in the past 18 months generally begin to tremble at 5 p.m. — the witching hour when those “esteemed executive is leaving to pursue other interests” news releases are e-mailed with the expectation that (a) many reporters already have left to get a head start on their holiday revelry; or (b) the news will be reported in poorly read holiday editions.
Way back in 2005, for instance, ABC announced the evening before Thanksgiving that it had canceled J.J. Abrams’s “Alias,” which was then the longest-running unsuccessful prime-time series on television.
More recently, Fox announced the Friday before the Labor Day weekend that “American Idol” judge Kara DioGuardi had “decided” to leave the country’s most popular television show to return to obscurity.
And, also probably not a coincidence, Cooper was not scheduled to appear live on either of his two TV shows Monday.
His daytime syndicated show is in repeats until Sept. 10. Meanwhile, CNN said Monday afternoon that Cooper was out of the country on assignment for CBS’s “60 Minutes” and that Ashleigh Banfield would anchor “AC360″ that night.
Coming out of the closet has historically been considered a dicey move for on-air talent — even news talent. But Cooper’s got little to lose.
In syndication, “Anderson” concluded its season with ratings that put Cooper ahead of Wendy Williams and Nate Berkus but behind Kelly Ripa, Maury Povich, Ellen DeGeneres, Jerry Springer and Rachael Ray. Back in February, when “Anderson” celebrated its 100th episode, the Associated Press noted there was some question whether “Anderson” would have survived to another season were it not for the distribution might of its syndicator, Telepictures Productions.
Meanwhile, Cooper’s CNN show had a disastrous first quarter, averaging a mere 472,000 viewers, in keeping with CNN’s worst quarter, ratings-wise, in more than two decades.