An Exhaustive Summary Of What Went Down With Rebel Wilson Over The Weekend
The SMH rejected the notion that the publication had "outed" Wilson.
Australian actress and comedian Rebel Wilson came out last week, announcing her relationship with fashion designer Ramona Agruma. But, as it turns out, it wasn’t actually Wilson’s own decision to do so — she was essentially threatened by The Sydney Morning Herald.
In a now-deleted Private Sydney column, journalist Andrew Hornery confirmed that out of “an abundance of caution and respect”, the publication emailed Wilson’s representatives giving her two days to comment on her alleged new relationship with a woman before they would break the news.
Wilson Announces Her New Relationship On Instagram
Ultimately, this prompted Wilson to take matters into her own hands and announce the news on Instagram.
View this post on Instagram
Bevan Shields Responds To Backlash
Following an understandably huge amount of backlash against the SMH for attempting to out Wilson, Editor-in-Chief Bevan Shields published an editor’s column on the situation titled ‘A Note On Rebel Wilson’.
“Our weekly Private Sydney celebrity column last week asked Wilson if she wished to comment about her new partner. We would have asked the same questions had Wilson’s new partner been a man,” said Shields.
“To say that the Herald “outed” Wilson is wrong.”
“Like other mastheads do every day, we simply asked questions and as standard practice included a deadline for a response. I had made no decision about whether or what to publish, and the Herald’s decision about what to do would have been informed by any response Wilson supplied.”
“Wilson made the decision to publicly disclose her new partner, who had been a feature of her social media accounts for months.”
Shields, however, neglected to address the fact that knowing the SMH was prepared to publish a story on her relationship — with or without her comment or consent — would’ve undoubtedly been a factor in Wilson’s decision to come out on social media.
It’s also worth noting that while similar questions may have been asked if Wilson’s new relationship was heterosexual, the decision to go public with your first same-sex relationship is deeply personal and not something that should be exploited for clicks.
At no point in the article was Wilson offered an apology.
Internal Emails Blast The SMH’s Reporting
Following Shield’s opinion piece, Crikey reporter Cam Wilson (no relation to Rebel) revealed that Shields had shared further details around the situation in an internal Slack message to staff.
“I had made no decision to publish anything and expected to make a call on Friday about whether to proceed with a story or not, based on whether Andrew heard from Wilson. If she had not responded, it would have been impossible to publish,” he said, according to messages seen by Crikey. Shields also added, internally, an apology for the confusion.
“Andrew also acknowledges the tone of Saturday’s piece was not appropriate, and I asked for it to be removed from online today,” wrote Shields.
“Mistakes were made in our approach to Wilson and I apologise for them … the inclusion of a deadline was an error as it appeared to be an ultimatum.”
The internal commentary from Shields comes after an anonymous Nine staff member sent an email asserting the company’s reputation was “trashed”.
The Original Story Is Removed And Replaced With A, Sort Of, Apology
On Monday, Hornery’s original article was taken down and replaced with an opinion piece entitled ‘I made mistakes over Rebel Wilson, and will learn from them‘.
“On the weekend I wrote about the background leading to Rebel Wilson’s social media post revealing her new relationship with another woman. I have learnt some new and difficult lessons from this and want to be upfront with you about the things I got wrong,” wrote Hornery.
“I genuinely regret that Rebel has found this hard. That was never my intention. But I see she has handled it all with extraordinary grace. As a gay man I’m well aware of how deeply discrimination hurts. The last thing I would ever want to do is inflict that pain on someone else.”
Throughout the opinion piece — which included an apology to Wilson — Hornery noted that he hoped the actress would’ve been happy to discuss the relationship but his message never received a reply. He also accepted that his message was perceived as a threat to “out” Wilson, seemingly contradicting Shields’ previous story, which asserted the publication did no such thing.
“My email was never intended to be a threat but to make it clear I was sufficiently confident with my information and to open a conversation,” said Hornery.
“It is not the Herald’s business to “out” people and that is not what we set out to do. But I understand why my email has been seen as a threat. The framing of it was a mistake.”
Wilson is yet to make a formal statement in response to the ordeal, but did reply to a supporter on Twitter thanking them for their support and noting that it “was a very hard situation but [she is] trying to handle it with grace”.