It's taken two solid weeks for Shepard Smith's comments about his homosexuality at the University of Mississippi to get national pickup, but in a way, that's fitting for a man who, for the last decade, never really saw himself as being in the closet.
Smith addressed the elephant in the Fox newsroom during an April 21 speech at Ole Miss' Meek School of Journalism, where he was once a student. Sitting in the audience: his father, stepfather and his partner.
The Holly Springs, Miss., native said that for his college years and the first two decades of his career, he didn't hide his sexuality so much as he just steered clear of the issue entirely. He poured himself into his work because he was unprepared to deal with the consequences.
“A. You’re going to hell for it,” he said, listing the reasons he avoided the subject. “B. You’ll never have any friends again. C. What are you going to tell your family? And by the way, you’re on television on the craziest conservative network on Earth,” he joked.”That will probably put you in front of a brick wall. Of course, none of that was true, but that’s how it felt.”
That, he explained, was "why it wasn’t until seven, or eight, or nine years ago, I started living my truth ... And when I told the truth, I guess it was considered that I outed myself. I didn’t even think about it because I didn’t think I was in.”
Things did get better after that point.
"Once I figured it all out, I wasn’t hiding anything," he told the audience. "I was always as true to me as I knew how to be. If I was fibbing to you, it’s because I was fibbing to me. And I didn’t realize I was fibbing to you because I didn’t know I was fibbing to me. And I know that sounds like such a load of (expletive), but it really is my truth. And I don’t have to fib about anything ever again as long as I live and that really makes everything so much easier.”
For Smith, his sexuality is both important and a non-issue.
“I don’t think about it,” he said. “It’s not a thing. I go to work. I manage a lot of people. I cover the news. I deal with holy hell around me. I go home to the man I’m in love with."
But don't go assigning any gay stereotypes to him, warns the Ole Miss fans.
"On a Saturday, I don't (care) about brunch," he laughed. "I respect you and your brunch. You should enjoy the brunch. The drag queens will be great. I'll be at (Ole Miss') Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Because that's where I need to be. And later, I need to watch ESPN for the rest of the day ... But it's harder when you like boys to find other people to roll like this. Until you put them on a private jet and bring them here."
Contributing: LaReeca Rucker, Special to The Clarion-Ledger