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Columnist apologizes after forcing Rebel Wilson to come out

Rebel Wilson
Rebel WilsonPhoto: Shutterstock

The Sydney Morning Herald has removed a column about Australian actor Rebel Wilson’s new relationship. Columnist Andrew Hornery has apologized after being accused of forcing Wilson into coming out, which she did last week.

In his first column on Wilson, Hornery stated that he had sent an email to Wilson, giving her a two-day deadline to respond to his plans to write about the relationship. Twitter users instantly responded to the column, calling it out as a threat to out the actor.

Related: Rebel Wilson comes out during pride month: I found my ‘Disney Princess’

Hornery wrote that his email was not meant to be a threat, but he could now see why it was seen as one. But in his initial column, Hornery writes about his disappointment with Wilson.

On Saturday, Hornery wrote that the paper had emailed Wilson’s representatives on Thursday morning, “giving her two days to comment on her new relationship with LA leisure wear designer Ramona Agruma.”

“Big mistake,” Hornery wrote. “Wilson opted to gazump the story.”

He wrote that “who anyone dates is their business,” but that Wilson “happily fed such prurient interest when she had a hunky boyfriend on her arm.”

Wilson would be unlikely to have experienced homophobia, he wrote, and “sexual orientation is no longer something to be hidden.”

After backlash on Twitter following Hornery complaining on Saturday about being surprised by Wilson revealing Agruma was her new partner, he wrote a new column on Monday apologizing for his reaction and saying he would take a different approach in the future. His initial column has been removed and replaced with a new one.

After his column was posted Monday, SMH’s editor, Bevan Shields, said the paper did not out Wilson, but “simply asked questions and as standard practice included a deadline for a response.”

ABC radio host Rafael Epstein wrote on Twitter his belief that the response was “disingenuous.”

And Wilson has responded.

Before the column was posted Monday, Wilson wrote on Twitter Sunday that it was a “very hard situation” that she was trying to handle with grace.

In his column posted on Monday, Hornery wrote that as a gay man, he was aware of the pain of discrimination and that he regretted that “Rebel has found this hard.”

He thought Wilson would have been happy to discuss her new love, but “we mishandled steps in our approach,” he wrote.

When he emailed Wilson’s representatives last week, he said he had “enough detail to publish the story.”

“However, in the interests of transparency and fairness, before publishing, I am reaching out to Rebel to see if she will engage in what I believe is a happy and unexpected news story for her, especially given the recent Pride celebrations,” he wrote. “My deadline is Friday, 1 pm Sydney time.”

That framing was a mistake, Hornery wrote on Monday. “The Herald and I will approach things differently from now on to make sure we always take into consideration the extra layer of complexities people face when it comes to their sexuality.”

He also admitted the tone of his Saturday column was “off.”

“I got it wrong,” he said.

Shields wrote that the paper would have asked the same question has Wilson’s new partner had been a man. Shields said he had not made a decision about whether or what he would publish, but that any decision would have been informed by any response from Wilson.

“This was not a standard news story,” he wrote. “We wish Wilson and Agruma well.”

But users on Twitter don’t feel the response was enough, especially with the history of LGBTQ people being outed in the media.

On Friday, Wilson had posted on Instagram, with the hashtag #loveislove, that she thought she was “searching for a Disney Prince.”

“But what maybe what I really needed all this time was a Disney Princess,” she wrote.

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