NBC's coming out party for Anderson Cooper featured soundbites from gay journalists, his being hailed as a "powerful voice" and an "advocate" for the gay and lesbian community, and panel members approving of his admitting to being gay, all on Tuesday's Today show.
"[H]e will have a powerful voice being an advocate for the gay and lesbian community," offered Natalie Morales. Ironically, her "Today's Professionals" panel then brushed off sentiment that Cooper's "coming out" would hurt his career or his journalistic integrity.
"I'm sorry, if you're a journalist, you're a journalist, you're a journalist," responded NBC medical editor Nancy Snyderman to Morales' question about how certain foreign countries might not accept Cooper's orientation if he reports there. "It doesn't matter. Why should being a single woman be different than being a gay man?" Snyderman insisted.
"Bravo," applauded attorney Star Jones, a Today show regular. "In Anderson's case, he's so entrenched, he's in the news business, he'll be fine," reassured panelist Donny Deutsch.
The first report on the Today show featured input from two gay journalists, MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts and Ramin Setoodeh from The Daily Beast. No guest criticized the move.
"He's probably at a place in his personal and professional life where he feels that he can be completely honest and the two don't have to be mutually exclusive," Roberts told NBC.
Later on in the fourth hour of the show, co-host Kathie Lee Gifford downplayed the news from her Manhattan perch, but admitted that the rest of the country was surprised. "It was not a secret at all to those of us who know him and here in the city. I just, you know – we've come to the place where I guess that is shocking to some people," she mused.
As Tim Graham of NewsBusters reported yesterday, however, Cooper isn't exactly a straight shooter on reporting gay and lesbian issues, at a network with a blatant pro-gay bias. The fan site All Things Anderson hails him as an "undying champion" for the LGBT community, and Cooper has a history of bias on these matters.
Below is a transcript of the "Today's Professionals" segment, which aired on June 3 on Today at 8:12 a.m. EDT:
NATALIE MORALES: Anderson Cooper as you know came out yesterday in an eloquently worded e-mail to The Daily Beast. Here is what he wrote in part. He says "It's become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I'm trying to hide something – something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true."
Then he goes on to say, "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." Now Star, of course, he will have a powerful voice being an advocate for the gay and lesbian community. But is there a certain sense of obligation for celebrities now to make their sexual preferences known?
STAR JONES: I don't think that people have to, you know, come out and say I am oriented in one direction or the other. I just – I'm a little bit of a cynic. I've been in daytime television a long time. And I –
MORALES: So do you think he came out for another reason?
JONES: Well he's – he's a daytime talk show host. And when the ratings slip in daytime, the hosts tend to tell you lots of things about them. I remember Oprah said she smoked crack. Oprah said she was pregnant at 14 and considered suicide. There were times you generate information for ratings. And – (gasp) – whoa, I'm sorry that I said that. But, I mean I say "bravo, bravo."
JONES: I say "bravo" for him.
DONNY DEUTSCH: The reality is more people will turn into his show today. I mean, that is a fact, so I'm not saying ploy or not ploy. The reality is today his numbers will pop. Here is my take on an obligation, is they have an obligation, Anderson or anybody else, to do what's right for them, their life, their career. If you are a super action hero and you are gay and you come out, it will hurt your career. It's wrong, but people will look at you jumping from buildings. It's a shame, but it is. In Anderson's case, he's so entrenched, he's in the news business, he'll be fine. Had he done this 10 years ago before he was established, it might have hurt him. But everybody's got the right –
NANCY SNYDERMAN, chief medical editor, NBC News: – lot of straight women out there today who are going to be shocked. Because I think for a lot of us in the business, this was the worst-kept secret. Everybody knew Anderson was gay. But it allows him now a chance to go with his partner, to be in a social scene, to not always be solo. It frees him to be who he is.
MORALES: What about, though, reporting in parts of the country – or parts of the world, really, where that may not be accepted?
SNYDERMAN: I'm sorry, if you're a journalist, you're a journalist, you're a journalist. It doesn't matter. Why should being a single woman be different than being a gay man? If you want to go report from those parts of the world, who you are is who you are.