The Sydney Morning Herald has deleted a column about Rebel Wilson’s new relationship, and one of its reporters has apologized for mistakes in its approach to reporting it.
On Friday, in a post tagged #loveislove, the Aussie star revealed to her 11 million Instagram followers that she was dating a woman. “I thought I was looking for a Disney Prince…but maybe what I really needed all this time was a Disney Princess,” the actor wrote, sharing a photo of himself with American fashion designer Ramona Agruma.
The post sparked an outpouring of good wishes. But controversy erupted after the Sydney Morning Herald announced Saturday that she contacted the actor on Thursday, wanting to post a story about her new relationship.
The contact was made by Andrew Hornery, author of the Herald’s private sydney celebrity column. He asked Wilson if she wanted to comment on her relationship with Agruma and gave her two days to respond to her plans to write about it.
In her Saturday column, Hornery complained that she was “watched” by Wilson’s decision to reveal, in her Instagram post, that Agruma is her new partner.
Hornery wrote a new column on Monday apologize for his reaction and saying he would take a different approach in the future. Saturday’s column has been removed and replaced with the new one.
The email he wrote giving Wilson two days to respond to his plans to write about the relationship was not meant to be a threat, he wrote, but he could now see why it was considered as such.
Monday’s apology column followed a public backlash against SMH over its approach to the story. In a note to readers on Monday, Sydney Morning Herald editor Bevan Shields said the paper did not take Wilson out, but “just asked questions and, as standard practice, included a response time.” Australian radio host Rafael Epstein, who presents ABC’s Drivecalled it “dishonest”.
LGBTIQ+ Health AustraliaManaging director Nicky Bath said Wilson found herself in “a terrible situation” when the Sydney Morning Herald contacted her about her new relationship. Bath said there was a process people went through to reveal their sexuality and it was an intensely personal and vulnerable time. “These are personal decisions,” she said. “Who you disclose to first, how you do it and when you do it.
“When people come out, the important question is that they have made the decision to do so and have the right support around them to go public with an important part of their lives. The pressure on you to come out is really unnecessary and will have an impact on [people’s] Mental Health.”
On Saturday, Hornery wrote that the newspaper emailed Wilson’s reps Thursday morning, “giving her two days to comment on her new relationship with Los Angeles leisurewear designer Ramona Agruma.” “Big mistake,” Hornery wrote. “Wilson chose to look at history.” He added that “dating people is their business” but that Wilson “luckily harbored such lustful interest when she had a handsome boyfriend on her arm.” Wilson is unlikely to have experienced homophobia, he wrote, and “sexual orientation is no longer something to hide.”
On Sunday, Wilson said on Twitter that it was a “very difficult situation” that she was trying to handle gracefully.
In his new column on Monday, Hornery wrote that as a gay man he was aware of the pain of discrimination and regretted that “Rebel found it difficult”. He thought Wilson would be happy to chat about his new love, but “we mismanaged the steps in our approach,” he wrote.
When he emailed Wilson’s reps last week, he said he had “enough details to get the story out.” “However, in the interest of transparency and fairness, before publishing, I am contacting Rebel to see if she will commit to what I believe is happy and unexpected news for her, particularly given the recent Pride celebrations,” he wrote. “My deadline is Friday, 1pm Sydney time.”
That framing was a mistake, Hornery wrote Monday. “The Herald and I will approach things differently from now on to ensure that we always take into consideration the added layer of complexities that people face when it comes to their sexuality.” He also acknowledged that the tone of his Saturday column was “off.” “I was wrong,” he said.
Shields wrote that his diary would have asked the same question had Wilson’s new partner been a man. Shields said he hadn’t made a decision on whether he would post or what, but that any decision would have been informed by any response from Wilson. “This was not standard reporting,” he wrote. “We wish Wilson and Agruma the best of luck.”
Bath said that while society might consider “all good as rain” for LGBTQ+ people, the reality was that “homophobia is alive and well in Australia”. “In 2022, finding yourself in this situation is really disappointing, when you know that people from LGBTIQ+ backgrounds have high rates of mental health [issues],” she said. She said going out should be a joyous time for people to talk about who they are, and that the process for Wilson had been “tarnished” by the Herald. ‘Australian Press Council, which refer to the need for respect and consent in discussions about a person’s sexual or gender identity – Guardian