John M. Becker

Is Fox News Keeping Shepard Smith in the Closet?

Filed By John M. Becker | April 30, 2014 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Bill Shine, closet cases, closeted celebrities, Fox News, Roger Ailes, Shepard Smith

shepard-smith-fox-news.jpgMuch like Anderson Cooper pre-2012, the sexual orientation of popular Fox News anchor Shepard Smith is an open secret. In fact, many have wondered why Smith doesn't just come the hell out and proudly declare that he's gay already.

But according to an explosive new report from Gawker's J.K. Trotter, Shepard's silence on the matter isn't due to personal choice -- instead, sources allege that Smith is being forcibly kept in the closet by Fox News diabolical overlord head honcho Roger Ailes:

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."

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."

More, after the jump.

bill-shine-fox-news.pngTrotter's sources further claim that Smith's demotion was orchestrated not by Ailes, but by Bill Shine (left), Fox's Executive Vice President of Programming, who apparently had an epic freakout last year when Smith brought his boyfriend to a staff picnic:

"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.)"

Shine then allegedly convinced Ailes that Smith's huge audience would flee if he disclosed his sexuality; Ailes reportedly deputized Shine to orchestrate Smith's demotion out of prime time and into the 3:00 timeslot.

Trotter's report, titled "How Fox News Shoved Shepard Smith Back Into the Closet," is worth reading in full -- click here to check it out at Gawker.

Many people, myself included, find Fox News and their routine lies and distortions to be absolutely loathsome. But if we support equality, we must support it for all people -- even those who work at places we don't like.

Shepard Smith doesn't deserve to be mistreated at work because of his sexual orientation any more than you or I do. If these allegations are true, they are vile, shameful, and utterly repugnant.

UPDATE, 3:00 P.M. EDT: Fox News is emphatically denying the Gawker allegations in a statement attributed to both Ailes and Smith and emailed to TV Newser:

"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."

Bill Shine also responded with a statement of his own:

"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."

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