Actress Rebel Wilson says she is trying to “handle with grace” the Sydney Morning Herald’s revelation that it planned to “out” her, giving her a two-day deadline to comment publicly on her relationship with Ramona Agruma.
On Friday, the Pitch Perfect star announced she and Agruma, a fashion designer, were officially a couple.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Rebel Wilson responds after ‘outing’ by Sydney newspaper
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“I thought I was searching for a Disney Prince … but maybe what I really needed all this time was a Disney Princess,” Wilson wrote in an Instagram post.
But on the weekend SMH “Private Sydney” columnist, Andrew Hornery, published an article criticising the actress for “opting to gazump” his scoop about the same-sex relationship by going public herself.
“In a perfect world, ‘outing’ same-sex celebrity relationships should be a redundant concept in 2022. Love is love, right?,” Hornery wrote in the article published on Saturday.
“As Rebel Wilson knows, we do not live in a perfect world.
“So, it was with an abundance of caution and respect that this media outlet emailed Rebel Wilson’s representatives on Thursday morning, giving her two days to comment on her new relationship … Big mistake.
“Wilson opted to gazump the story, posting about her new ‘Disney Princess’ on Instagram early Friday morning.
“Considering how bitterly Wilson had complained about poor journalism standards when she successfully sued Woman’s Day for defamation, her choice to ignore our discreet, genuine and honest queries was, in our view, underwhelming.”
But the article sparked outrage, with social media users slamming the media outlet for attempting to force Wilson’s hand.
“I’ve just read this SMH piece three times to make sure that I wasn’t misreading,” BBC reporter Megha Mohan wrote on Twitter.
“The publication messaged Rebel Wilson saying they would out her in 2 days — and is now complaining that she chose to announce her relationship with a woman herself.
Wilson’s Bridesmaids co-star and former flatmate Matt Lucas posted an impassioned response, writing that “coming out is often a long, scary process”.
“Self-realisation, telling friends and family, a first relationship. I thought the press forcing people to out themselves, regardless of whether or not they were ready, was a thing of the past,” he wrote.
“I must have been mistaken.”
“So apparently it wasn’t Rebel Wilson’s choice to come out,” journalist Kate Doak tweeted.
“The SMH/The Age have admitted to giving her a heads up two days in advance that they were going to ‘out’ her.
“What’s worse, openly gay men at the Sydney Morning Herald were involved in this.”
Beneath this tweet, Wilson responded: “Thanks for your comments, it was a very hard situation but trying to handle it with grace.”
After the backlash, SMH editor Bevan Shields published a “note from the editor”, saying: “To say that the Herald ‘outed’ Wilson is wrong.
“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,” he said.
On Monday, Andrew Hornery published a fresh column, admitting he had “made mistakes over Rebel Wilson, and I will learn from them”.
“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,” he wrote.
“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.”
Hornery said he wanted to write a happy celebrity romance story but took “missteps” in his approach.
Part of his email to Wilson’s PR team contained the following sentence: “While I realise Rebel’s partner has not been mentioned as yet, I have several sources who have confirmed their status and I have enough detail to publish.”
He said his email was “never intended to be a threat” but he wanted to make it clear he was “sufficiently confident” with his information and to “open a conversation”.
“It is not the Herald’s business to “out” people,” Hornery said.
‘Not an ultimatum’
Hornery said he wanted to make it clear that “a deadline is not an ultimatum”.
“I got it wrong. I allowed my disappointment to cast a shadow over the piece. That was not fair, and I apologise.”
Tweeting Hornery’s new column, Shields responded to the backlash over the weekend, saying: “Like other mastheads do every day, we simply asked questions and as standard practice included a deadline for a response.
“Wilson made the decision to publicly disclose her new partner, who had been a feature of her social media accounts for months.”
He said the column was “not a standard news story” and concluded with: “We wish Wilson and Agruma well.”
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