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Fox News denies it demoted anchor Shepard Smith when he wanted to come out as gay

04/30/2014 7:19 PM

04/30/2014 7:19 PM

Fox News anchorman Shepard Smith was reportedly ready to come out as gay last year, but his bosses weren’t keen on the plan. Has he since been punished?

In a story today titled “How Fox News Shoved Shepard Smith Back Into The Closet,” – and now vehemently denied by Smith and Fox executives –

Gawker's J.K. Trotter

quotes “multiple sources” who say that Smith approached network president Roger Ailes last summer about publicly coming out.

Gawker reports that Smith told Ailes and other colleagues: “It’s time. It’s time.”

A few weeks before that conversation with Ailes, Smith reportedly surprised his colleagues by taking his boyfriend, a 26-year-old Fox producer, to the company picnic held annually over the Fourth of July weekend at Ailes’ home.

Sources tell Gawker that the couple’s appearance put “several Fox executives on high alert.”

Gawker contends that the subject came up during contract negotiations when “Shep wanted to and was ready to come out, and Roger just said no,” a Fox insider said.

Ailes allegedly told Smith that Fox’s audience would not tolerate a gay news anchor.

“But the discussion worried enough Fox executives to prompt Smith’s removal, in September 2013, from the channel’s coveted prime-time lineup,” Gawker reports.

“According to a Fox insider with direct knowledge of negotiations, Smith’s desire to come out was a large factor in the dramatic move.”

On Wednesday, Ailes and Smith issued a joint statement condemning the Gawker piece as “100% false and a complete fabrication.

“As colleagues and close friends at Fox News for 18 years, our relationship has always been rooted in a mutual respect, deep admiration, loyalty, trust, and full support both professionally and personally.”

Fox News executive Bill Shine, named in the Gawker story as one of the network honchos who didn’t want Smith to come out, issued his own statement.

“We have never asked Shep to discuss or not discuss his private life, and the notion of us having an issue with anyone’s sexuality is not only insulting, but pure fiction,” he said.

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