Daily Beast outs gay Olympic athletes, many from “notoriously homophobic” countries

UPDATE: The Daily Beast has pulled the story entirely, after a vicious and well-deserved response from a gay Olympic athlete.

What were they thinking?

The Daily Beast is facing a lot of criticism today over a story they published this morning (and have now heavily redacted) about gay Olympic athletes attempting to meet up and hook up with other gay Olympic athletes during the Rio games.

Because of some really sloppy writing and editing — and at best, some incredible naïveté — the Daily Beast story outed several athletes from “notoriously homophobic” countries (that last term comes from the author of the story himself, so he knew what he was dealing with).

In a nutshell, a straight reporter (a guy who’s married to a woman, and has kids) decided to go on a gay networking app while attending the Olympics, and pretend that he was gay. (His first bad idea, of many.)

He then proceeded to write a voyeuristic piece about trying to find man-on-man sex in the Olympic Village. And in doing so, provided enough detail about the gay Olympians he was chatting with so that anyone could easily figure out their real identity on Google.

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern in fact did just that — Stern quickly identified 5 of the Olympians by name. (Stern was smart enough not to publish the names.)

On its face, when a reporter says to his editor, “hey boss, let’s do a fun piece about closeted gay men hooking up,” a good editor ought to have an immediate gut-check that says “not so fast.”

But then you add in the fact that these aren’t just gay Americans — these are gay people from all over the world, many from countries where being gay would not just end their career, but could in fact end their lives — and any good editor would stop that reporter in his tracks.

So what happened?

Were there no gay people involved in the story, at the editorial or even fact-checking level, who could stand up and say “guys, this is a bad idea”?

Were the writer and editors so young that they live in a post-gay bubble where they just assume that “it’s okay now to be gay, so no harm no foul?”

To its credit, the Daily Beast has now heavily redacted the original story, in order to protect the identities of the gay Olympians.

In a twisted way, I could see how the Daily Beast might have thought this story was in fact pro-gay. In the old days, you’d avoid a story like this, in part because “civilized” people didn’t talk about “the gay.” In fact, we still have the problem where openly-gay people are inned in their obituaries by either homophobic editors; or well-meaning editors who don’t want to “out” them, even though they’re already out.

Is that what happened here? Did the Daily Beast think, hey, we’re treating gays just like straights — investigating their sex lives just like we might a straight person’s? Perhaps. But it’s a false equivalency. A guy runs a much better chance of losing his job, or his life, if someone exposes the fact that he sleeps with guys than if they’d reported that he sleeps with women. And everyone involved in this story should have known that.

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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