MSNBC's Thomas Roberts Embraces 'Freedom From Religion,' Pegs Chick-fil-A As Racists

The New York Observer is celebrating openly gay MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts as he plans for his wedding by dieting with Red Bull energy drinks and chewing gum. The laugh line in this supportive profile is Roberts claiming "he wasn't especially inclined to cover gay stories because of his demographic profile." He generally has what we call a "Gay of the Day" segment every morning in the 11 am hour.

Roberts also said he believed in "freedom from religion" and suggested the Southern restaurants of Chick-fil-A probably opposed interracial marriage back in the Sixties, since they oppose gay marriage today:

And Mr. Roberts says his late-September wedding to Patrick Abner, of Merck Pharmaceuticals' HIV/AIDS division, and his public persona as a gay man, are unlikely to hurt his career at MSNBC-not least because, unlike certain newly out cable newsmen, he makes no claims to objectivity. "I am not objective when it comes to equality. And that means for all. I want it for you, for me, for everybody . It's written in our Constitution: life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, and what's wrong with talking about that? Nothing."

We asked Mr. Roberts how the gay movement—consumed over the past week in a battle over the actions of Chick-fil-A, a Georgia-based chicken sandwich-monger—could distinguish between signal and noise. Mr. Roberts didn’t see it that way. “They’ve been a longstanding company, I think since the 1950s, based in Georgia. I would love if we could figure out what they did for Loving v. Virginia back in the 1960s,” he said referencing the landmark case striking down anti-miscegenation laws. “I would venture a guess: I think I know what they would say."

“The great thing that I love about our country is that though we were founded on freedom of religion, most important and most overlooked is that we were founded on freedom from religion … I fully believe in traditional marriage. You want one, go get one.”

Mr. Roberts said, though, that he wasn’t especially inclined to cover gay stories because of his demographic profile, despite the ex post facto judgments of viewers.“I think LGBT stories right now are newsmakers. So, no matter if you’re straight, gay or Martian, you’re going to be covering them. Because I am who I am, I can provide a different viewpoint, because people at home might know who I am or where I’ve come from—and that’s O.K.”

But being out of the closet allows one to pursue stories of social justice more aggressively, without worrying about whispers. We asked Mr. Roberts about his old CNN colleague, Anderson Cooper, who’d risen in the ranks while staying publicly closeted, until this summer. “Now people can stop asking me when do you think Anderson’s going to come out,” he said. “I have had that for years! And I think it’s great … I think he’s in a place now where he wants that personal-professional synergy. And he deserves that.”

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis