Over the weekend, TMZ paparazzi stopped Bravo star Andy Cohen to ask him about his upcoming CNN New Years Eve special with longtime friend Anderson Cooper. During the brief exchange, the reporter mentioned Kathy Griffin, who had formerly hosted the special with Cooper until her appearance was canceled after her infamous photo of a decapitated Donald Trump circulated on social media. The photo prompted a response from journalists, celebrities, and politicians, including Trump himself, and as Griffin claims, put her under Interpol surveillance. Cohen, who had worked with Griffin for years at Bravo, told TMZ reporters he did not know her and didn’t know anything about his replacing her.
The exchange compelled Griffin to release a “hell of a story” via YouTube in which she accused Andy Cohen of deeply misogynistic behavior towards her when she was at Bravo as the star of My Life on the D-List, which had earned two Emmy wins for the network. Griffin also brought up one instance in which Cohen had offered her cocaine before going live on his show Watch What Happens Live, to which Cohen vehemently denied on his Twitter account.
Then, late Sunday night, Rent star Anthony Rapp went public with his accusations against Academy Award winning actor Kevin Spacey, in which he detailed Spacey making a drunken sexual advance toward him when he was only fourteen years old at a Broadway after party in 1986. Spacey at the time was twenty-six and a rising star on the Broadway and film scene. Rapp said he had been inspired by the women who came forward in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and its effects on the entertainment industry. While Rapp showed tremendous courage in recounting his teenage trauma, Spacey steered the narrative in a different direction.
For decades, Kevin Spacey’s personal life has perplexed fans and gossip columnists alike, who have often wondered when the House of Cards star would finally come out of the closet as gay, despite his sexuality being a known secret on Broadway and in Hollywood. Earlier today, Spacey, in response to Rapp’s allegations, apologized to his accuser, and without missing a beat, publicly came out as a gay man. Normally, a celebrity’s coming out is cause for celebration for their bravery, but Kevin Spacey is not courageous. He is a predator.
The problem with men like Andy Cohen and Kevin Spacey is not the fact that they are gay men. Their problem is that they use their queerness as a shield to deflect valid criticisms of their private and public behavior. Cohen has made a name for himself by purposely pitting women against each other in the Real Housewives franchise, the series feminists have claimed is particularly regressive and damaging to women’s empowerment. He also clearly has no issue with denying his drug use on Bravo television sets, but cannot muster a word about how he “treated [Kathy Griffin] like a dog” while she worked with him. Cohen’s issue is that he believes, as a gay man, he has the right to treat women this way, refusing to address his own misogyny while fueling it every day at Bravo.
On a larger scale, Kevin Spacey, in looking for LGBTQ support after Anthony Rapp’s allegations by coming out of the closet, despicably and unabashedly exploited his queerness for sympathy points. While I respect that everyone has a right to their own private life, Spacey’s choice to come out in response to allegations of pedophilia is extremely offensive to LGBTQ people who have worked decades to halt the narrative that conflates pedophilia and homosexuality. In the same way that Andy Cohen’s modus operandi as a talk show host is degrading to women, Spacey’s coming out is a slap in the face to LGBTQ people who have worked tirelessly over the decades to create a safe environment where he could have publicly acknowledged his sexuality. Kevin Spacey refuses to accept blame for his actions, chalking it up to drunkenness and quickly spinning the narrative back to himself. In true Frank Underwood fashion, Kevin Spacey is a master of deceit and insensitivity. He is a predator.
Queerness, especially for white gay men like Cohen and Spacey, does not absolve anyone of their deeply offensive and predatory actions. These men have coopted what being a true member of the LGBTQ community means in the sense that they use their queerness to climb the social ladder. Cohen does it for ratings. Spacey, on the other hand, uses his homosexuality to attempt to get out of a situation that could rightfully ruin his career. Neither man is noble, nor should they be considered pillars of the LGBTQ community.