CNN is anything but the Centrist News Network on gay issues, and that’s certainly going to be true now that its twice-in-prime-time star Anderson Cooper is out of the closet. CNN’s Reliable Sources reviewed this issue on Sunday with three guests: two delighted gay journalists and TV critic Eric Deggans, who wrote on The Huffington Post that conservatives should be banned: “When does a news organization exclude the haters?”
Viewers were told Cooper came out because he was afraid to be on “the wrong side of history” when he would look “completely out of the mainstream.” So who would care whether Cooper can be seen as fair to two sides. “What two sides?” seems to be the company line:
HOWARD KURTZ: And, Eric Deggans, Anderson Cooper did everything he could to downplay this, not only announcing by e-mail by waiting until he was on assignment in Africa to go public. Yet it was still a big story, why?
ERIC DEGGANS, TAMPA BAY TIMES: Well, I think it's important -- for a couple of reasons. "The New York Times," for example, noted that he is now the most visible gay journalist on American television. And there's also a sense that it's a sign post. It's a sense that, you know, we're advancing in our acceptance of homosexuality and gay people in public life.
What was interesting to me was to see the tension for Anderson Cooper between wanting to do it feel right personally and also doing something to serve a larger cause.
The “news” business is apparently devoted to serve a “larger cause” than mere information-peddling. It’s there to advance society toward a gay Nirvana.
KURTZ: Which sets up my question for Mike Signorile, which is you say that the vast majority of TV, media, and Hollywood personalities are still closeted. Why do they stay in?
MICHELANGELO SIGNORILE, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, you know, for years they've been told by the powers that be in Hollywood, in the media, in politics, as well, that it's going to harm your career. It's going to hurt you. It's going to be something terrible for much of your working life.
And I think that's changed. Certainly, we've seen with many of the actors who have come out, performers, Ellen DeGeneres, and other. And I think we really sort of moved quickly on so many issues regarding gay life that suddenly a lot of these people started looking at it and saying, wow, not only would it be okay but, in fact, it's an embarrassment now to be in the closet.
And I think that's one reason why Anderson and others -- I wrote a piece on "Huffington Post" about how the new trend is, doing it low key because I think there's an embarrassment to having been in the closet. And they just want to kind of slip out.
Kurtz probably thinks of himself as the “balance” on this panel when he projected some skepticism that the public needs to know people’s private sexual habits, or that the “closet” is pathetic and embarrassing, as the guests suggested. He then turned to Gail Shister, a longtime media reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer who now works at the TV Newser blog:
KURTZ: Gail Shister, Anderson Cooper said before he changed his mind, that he felt that s private life was no one's business. Was he right?
GAIL SHISTER: I think at a certain period of time, that was true. But I think that to answer your previous question about why so many gay people are in the closet and it's embarrassing, is because they're on the wrong side of history.
I think that the trend is absolutely changing. We're in the midst of a cultural sea change in terms of same-sex marriage, don't ask-don't tell. It's only a matter of time before it's legalized al over the country. They just don't want to be seen as completely out of touch with the mainstream.
It’s easy for the gay Left to define both “history” and the “mainstream” when one side of the debate is censored. It’s easy to look inevitable and victorious when you try to blindfold the viewers to any opposition.
KURTZ: And, Gail Shister, what made me sometimes uncomfortable because Anderson has a segment on his show called "Keeping Them Honest," and he's devoted time to bullying of gays. And, you know, I always felt like he was leaving out a pertinent fact. Maybe that was unfair of me, but it did seem like it would be nice if he could acknowledge it which he has now done.
SHISTER: I think that was part of the pressure on him is that I think arguably he more than any journalist in the United States over the past year has dedicated more coverage. And it's been almost a crusade against bullying of gay youth. And I -- he reached a critical mass where there were just no more excuses for him.
And there's another point, too, here, Howard, I'd like to bring up which is -- there's -- quickly, there's a paradox. On the one hand he comes out big deal. On the other hand, look how many headlines it generated all over the country. So there is a disconnect there.
KURTZ: Yes. I think he's basically gotten positive press.
Again, it’s easy for Cooper to get “positive press” when you bow to demands that Cooper’s critics are “haters” who don’t deserve two seconds of air time.
Here’s the view that wasn’t allowed on CNN: When CNN conducts “almost a crusade” on gays and bullying, does it really matter whether Cooper is in or out of the closet? If CNN anchor Don Lemon is any sort of precursor to Cooper, we might expect Cooper to become even more of a crusader now that his sexuality is a public matter. Is that what CNN is now, the Crusade News Network?
You can understand why CNN doesn’t want to put that debate on CNN.