CNN anchor comes out of the closet

Joe Pompeo
May 16, 2011

A CNN journalist has revealed that he is a gay man, joining the handful of TV news hosts who are out in the public eye.

"wanted to be the firs to share with u. thanks for your support!!!" CNN weekend anchor Don Lemon said on Twitter Sunday night. His tweet included a link to a just-published New York Times article in which he discusses his sexual orientation with Bill Carter.

The timing coincides with the release of Lemon's new book, "Transparent," where the CNN host first discusses his sexual orientation publicly.

"I'm scared. I'm talking about something that people might shun me for, ostracize me for," Lemon told the Times' Carter. "It's quite different for an African-American male," he said. "It's about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You're taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away."

Nevertheless, "I think it would be great if everybody could be out," Lemon said, referring to the prospect that his announcement could inspire other well-known TV news personalities to follow his lead. "But it's such a personal choice. People have to do it at their own speed. I respect that."

There's only a small number of openly gay U.S. news anchors. The most prominent is MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, who made a similar comment in an interview with The Guardian recently.

"I'm sure other people in the business have considered reasons why they're doing what they're doing, but I do think that if you're gay you have a responsibility to come out," said Maddow about "an equally well-known news presenter who is widely assumed to be gay but has never come out."

The context of the interview suggested that Maddow might have been referring to Lemon's CNN colleague Anderson Cooper, who has long been the subject of rumors and speculation that he is gay, but has never offered comment or clarification on the question of his sexuality. Maddow initially caught some flack for the remark, but later clarified her comments.

"In that interview, I wasn't asked about Anderson Cooper, I didn't say anything about him, he literally was never discussed during the interview at all -- even implicitly," she wrote in a blog post on her website.

"Media-about-media today notwithstanding, I did not in my interview with the Guardian say anything about or to Mr. Cooper, nor would I. Although criticism of Mr. Cooper was intimated by the Guardian and picked up everywhere -- I did not make that criticism in the interview, nor did I imply it, nor is it what I believe."

Lemon, meanwhile, seems pleased with the initial response to his revelation.

"I'm overwhelmed by all your tweets and support! Hoping this prevents more tragedies like tyler clementi's suicide," he tweeted a few hours after the Times story dropped.

Tyler Clementi was the Rutgers University student who committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after several classmates tweeted about a sexual encounter he had with another man.