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Rebel Wilson and the outing backlash against The Sydney Morning Herald

Wilson found herself in ‘a very hard situation’ as Australian newspaper sought details of new partner

An Australian newspaper has been accused of “outing” actor Rebel Wilson amid a row over its reporting of her new relationship with a woman. 

In an Instagram post on Friday, the Pitch Perfect star said she had found her “Disney Princess” as she shared a selfie with her partner, leisurewear designer Romana Agruma, with her 11 million followers. 

A day later Andrew Hornery, a gossip columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, suggested Wilson had only revealed her relationship after he had approached her for comment for an article he was writing on the pair.

In his “Private Sydney” column, Hornery said Wilson had chosen to “gazump the story” after she went public with her relationship with Agruma on social media. He said that it was out of “an abundance of caution and respect” that he had contacted Wilson’s representatives to give her two days to comment on the relationship before he published his story. 

In an apparent criticism of Wilson’s decision to reveal her relationship on social media, Hornery added that “her choice to ignore our discreet, genuine and honest queries was, in our view, underwhelming”.

Social media backlash

The column sparked an angry reaction on social media over the weekend, with many critical of the apparent pressure put on Wilson by Hornery to reveal her relationship status, as well as the tone of the piece.

Speaking to the BBC, a spokesperson for Stonewall said: “Coming out is a deeply personal decision”, adding: “Whether, when and how to come out should be decided by the individual, entirely on their terms.

“It is simply not OK to ‘out’ LGBTQ+ people or put pressure on us to come out. Media outlets should take care not to sensationalise LGBTQ+ lives and relationships.”

Nicky Bath, LGBTIQ+ Health Australia’s chief executive, told The Guardian that Wilson has been put in “an appalling situation” by the Herald. “To have pressure put on you to come out is really unhelpful, and will impact on [people’s] mental health.”

In response to a Twitter post that said it wasn’t the actor’s choice to come out, Wilson wrote that it has been “a very hard situation but trying to handle it with grace”.

Editor denies his paper ‘outed’ star

The Herald’s editor, Bevan Shields, has since published an editor’s note in which he denied the paper had outed Wilson, and said they would have asked the same questions “had Wilson’s new partner been a man”.

He wrote: “Like other mastheads [newspapers] 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.”

Hornery’s original column has now been deleted and instead links to an opinion piece in which the columnist concedes he got it “wrong” and that the tone of his column was “off”. 

He said that his email to Wilson’s representatives “was never intended to be a threat but to make it clear I was sufficiently confident with my information and to open a conversation”.

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.”

He added that both he and the paper would “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”.

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