Shepard Smith's sexual orientation is the subject of a minor amount of interest in certain circles. Why, I've never been quite sure. I mean, maybe the possibility that he's gay could've qualified as juicy and titillating gossip column fodder even a decade or so ago, but now, finally, we're beginning to reach a place in the civilized and enlightened segments of our culture where being gay is essentially meaningless. While this may sound dismissive, it's actually anything but. It's what gay people have been striving toward for a very long time: to be more than simply who they happen to love and to not be defined solely by that. To be just, you know, people. Same as everybody else.
Most media outlets these days know better than to publish a story whose sole thrust is that a person is gay. Doing so is seen as cheap and retrograde simply because a person's sexual orientation, in and of itself, isn't news anymore. Somebody's gay? Who cares? Unless that person has specifically and publicly campaigned against gay rights issues or has proclaimed him or herself to be a God-fearing, straight, family values conservative -- where exposing him or her would expose a giant helping of hypocrisy -- being gay isn't worth one inch of copy. Outing a person just to out him or her implies that he or she is doing something wrong. And there's nothing wrong with being gay.
Gawker knows this, which is why it buried the hell out of the lede you just know it wanted to go with yesterday in a story about how Shep Smith may have shouted down a cocktail server in New York City. If you haven't heard the details, apparently back in March, Shep and some friends were out drinking and he grabbed a waitress by the arm and yelled at her, "Where the fuck is my drink! Where is my fucking drink! Get my fucking drink!" then stormed off in a huff. Obviously, this is entertaining gossip -- though not much more -- but what Gawker takes great pains to highlight in detail a little farther down in the story is who Shep was with at the bar.
Smith had arrived earlier that night with a straight couple and his own regular date, a muscular 6-foot-2 30-something white male, whom Bathtub Gin employees refer to as “his boyfriend.” Like most other nights—Smith frequents the bar, located behind a coffee shop on 9th Avenue, about once a week—the anchor’s attention fell on his date. According to Minskova and one other source, who have seen Smith and his date drink there on multiple occasions, the couple frequently holds hands and rests them in each others’ laps under the table. Nobody we spoke with, including several Fox insiders, knew the name of Smith's date.
Now make no mistake: Gawker is a gossip and snark site, so mentioning a quick line about the sex of Shep's "date" as part of a general description maybe wasn't entirely out of line. But knowing that he's a media figure who hasn't felt the need to publicize his sexuality -- because it's his business -- the fact that Gawker went the extra mile to really play up the physical aspect of Shep's interaction with someone who isn't a name and who therefore isn't newsworthy for any reason other than the fact that he's a man is undeniably tawdry. Certainly, Shep Smith's sexuality is probably the worst kept secret in media, and the flip-side of making the claim that it shouldn't matter anyway is that he should be just as ripe for gossip about who he's seeing as any of his straight contemporaries, but again, the guy Shep was reportedly with last March isn't somebody the general public would know. He's just a guy. Though in the eyes of Gawker, that's apparently enough.
I guess the test is this: would Gawker have gone into the kind of detail it did if Shep had been with a nameless 30-something white woman, holding hands and resting them in each other's laps? Something tells me it wouldn't have. That just wouldn't have had quite the same titillating ring to it.