What Anderson Cooper’s Gay Acknowledgment Means

By Gail Shister 

I’ll take ‘Remarkable Grasp of the Obvious’ for $200, please, Alex.

Though Anderson Cooper’s sexuality had been an open secret forever, his emergence from the closet today – via an email to The Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan, made public with Cooper’s permission – is still big news.

CNN’s star anchor is now the most prominent gay TV newsman in America. Even in a post-modern culture in which celebrities’ coming out barely triggers a ripple anymore, that distinction matters.

It matters because Cooper is a universally-respected journalist who has repeatedly distinguished himself in the field. Also, it doesn’t hurt that he is movie-star handsome and a Yalie.

Viewers forgave Cooper long ago for having hosted “The Mole,” and his occasional fit of girly giggles on “Anderson Cooper 360” is seen as endearing. No one disputes his work ethic: In addition to reporting for “60 Minutes,” he launched a daytime talk show in the fall.

It’s no mere coincidence that Cooper is on assignment for “60” and unavailable today. He’s never been comfortable publicly discussing any part of his personal life, let alone his sexuality. Today, in a sense, he let someone else do the talking for him.

Regardless, it was a cause for celebration among fellow ‘out’ TV anchors.

“This is a fantastic thing,” says MSNBC daytime anchor Thomas Roberts, a CNN alum. “This allows the success and happiness in his personal life to catch up with the success and happiness in his professional life. The two should not be mutually exclusive. I’m glad he can have that balance.”

Roberts came out publicly in 2006, when he worked at CNN. He and his partner of 12 years, Patrick Abner, community liaison for a pharmaceutical company, plan to be married in September in New York. Cooper is invited.

So is Cooper’s CNN colleague, weekend anchor Don Lemon. He labels today’s

Don Lemon of CNN and Thomas Roberts of MSNBC

announcement as “awesome. I just tweeted him congratulations. We should all be supportive. He’s a human being. He wants to be happy and live his life.”

Lemon came out last year prior to publication of his memoir, ‘Transparent.’ He and his partner, CNN producer Ben Tinker, have been together five years.

Cooper’s acknowledgment “says a lot about CNN as a company. Not only are we grounded in the reality of the world, we are also part of the future.”

Lemon predicts that Cooper will not get any backlash for coming out. “For someone as accomplished as he is, his actions speak for themselves.”

In Roberts’ view, Cooper’s move may have a ripple effect on closeted talent.

“It’s a lofty goal. I’ve said for a long time that the waters are safe. Maybe this will inspire more people.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, an open lesbian, was on vacation and not available for comment, according to a network rep.