Catholic Church | Rachel Maddow | Thomas Roberts

Towleroad Interview: Thomas Roberts

ThomasrobertsInterview by Steve Pep, Weekend Editor

Thomas Roberts is one of the few openly gay anchors on cable news and he recently landed himself a permanent gig on MSNBC, the same network that employs the most famous openly gay anchor of them all; Rachel Maddow. I interviewed him this week about his new job, religion, his recent appearance on "30 Rock" and the coverage of LGBT-related news in the mainstream media.

SP: You've had your own show at MSNBC for a few months now. How did it feel to sign on as a full-time anchor on the cable channel?
TR: It felt great. I signed my contract right before Christmas. It really capped off an incredible year and just meant the next one was going to be even better. I think we are off to a wonderful and strong start.
SP: Has it been a good fit for you?
TR: The fit is fantastic. I love the people, I love the work and I love the brand.  I have never been more comfortable in my own skin and I think that comes through on air…at least I hope it does.

SP: You recently appeared on an episode of "30 Rock." What was that like?
TR: It was very cool.  Watching the episode was the exciting part.  I shot my three scenes in the MSNBC studios so I didn’t get to interact with the cast.  I am hoping for a recurring role J.  Maybe “Liz Lemon” can develop a crush on me only to find out that I play for the other team.

SP: During your contribution to the "It Gets Better" campaign, you revealed that you attempted to take your own life at age 15. What kind of difficult events did you face at the time that led you to attempt something so drastic?
TR: That was a very low point in my very young life.  My parents had recently divorced. I was suffering some tremendous growing pains and I was being sexually abused by my high school chaplain. The weight of all that shame seemed unbearable and I thought suicide was the only way to freedom from what my day to day life had become.  I wasn’t mature enough to understand what was happening to me wasn’t my fault and I didn’t think anyone would believe me if I told the truth about the abuse.  I was always afraid, like a cat on a hot tin roof.

The rest of the interview, AFTER THE JUMP.

SP: What kind of support system did you have after the attempt?
TR: My sister found me and saved my life. My family worked very hard to get me back to a better mental place.  I had such a sense of hopelessness. However, the pain that I saw I caused my family, I knew I could never put them through that again and living was the only way to move forward.

SP: You said that you would like to get married in your native state of Maryland. How did you feel when the state's marriage equality bill, which looked like it had a very good chance of passing, eventually died in the House?
TR: Yes, I did.  Again, I feel comfortable and I am happy to share that on-air.  I think time is on my side and it will eventually pass.  I am just proud that my home state is working toward legislation that reflects equality.
Thomasroberts2SP: You still consider yourself a Catholic though you no longer practice. What are some of the positive things you take away from the religion?
TR: I take my spirituality with me and I am glad to have it.  Being a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of the church robbed me of enough and I won’t allow it to take my spiritually as well.
  SP: What do you say to those critics who believe that being gay and Catholic is a contradiction?
TR: Life is full of contradictions. My faith was chosen for me by my parents and today I am not a “fully functioning/practicing Catholic.”  I don’t think I am alone with that concept.
SP: You told me last year that though you're not a fan of outing people, that you wish some closeted people would "grow a pair." What do you think is the biggest fear possessed by news anchors who live openly gay in their private lives but choose to not come out publicly?
TR: I think the biggest fear is self acceptance.  We all have different timing for when that comes along.
SP: Your colleague, Rachel Maddow, recently revealed three beliefs she has about gay news anchors. Do you agree with any or all of her these?
TR: Rachel is brilliant and I love her.  Enough said!

SP: Which LGBT issues do you believe deserve the most media attention right now?
TR: I have been so saddened by this recent rash of LGBT suicides and I think talking about it and covering it has been a great help.  I still think the dialogue needs to remain open.  I also feel the same sex bi-national couple issue is huge.  There are same-sex couples who have been married legally in this country and now face being split apart because they are not recognized by the federal government.

SP: Do you think there is enough coverage of LGBT-related issues in the mainstream media?
TR: I think we have never seen more than we do today.  I am proud to be part of that nudge and I only think we will see more.  Just showing up for work on a daily basis puts an LGBT face in mainstream media, whether we are covering an LGBT issue that day or not viewers see me daily.  That in itself is a great accomplishment.

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  1. I trust you're reading this Anderson Cooper. You should take Thomas Roberts as a "role model"!

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | May 7, 2011 9:41:41 AM

  2. How can you interview TR and not ask if the manhunt photos are really him? :)

    Posted by: Skep | May 7, 2011 9:48:38 AM

  3. skep

    that is tasteless to bring up, there is a time and place for such and it isn't now

    Anyway; great interview

    Posted by: | May 7, 2011 9:58:45 AM

  4. Whatever, Mstro. He's a public figure. The pix have been floating around for a while. An interview with a gay outlet is exactly the time and place for it.

    Posted by: Skep | May 7, 2011 10:24:18 AM

  5. no question his telecasts are informative and alive. MSNBC made a great decision to give him his own time slot...they should give him Alex Whitt's weekend slots...she's just terrible!

    Posted by: chris | May 7, 2011 10:41:54 AM

  6. skep, the most i will give u is that he could have been asked generally about the controversy, but NO public figure should be shown a widely circulated photo of a man's genitals and be asked, "is this your penis?"

    Posted by: pete | May 7, 2011 10:48:35 AM

  7. And incredibly handsome too boot!

    Posted by: Eddie | May 7, 2011 10:57:12 AM

  8. He and Maddow are great role models not just for kids and gays, but for all people. Nice interview Mr. Pep.

    Posted by: patrick nyc | May 7, 2011 11:02:29 AM

  9. I think he's WAY hotter than the overrated Andy Cooper.

    Posted by: Kris | May 7, 2011 11:17:42 AM

  10. Came hear to comment (positively); now I'm just disappointed. Why must we eat our own? I really don't want to know the dirt. I really don't need it dug up and thrown in my face. I imagine there are many people reading this blog whose private lives would make for scandalous public consumption, and I'll bet any number of excuses could be made for setting up the buffet.

    Posted by: TJ | May 7, 2011 12:35:02 PM

  11. It is incredible that two of the few "real news" anchors working today are openly gay.

    Posted by: Phil | May 7, 2011 1:43:46 PM

  12. Truly inspirational. And a person to watch in more ways than one, I think we'll see this guy leading the way on a lot of issues.

    Posted by: johnny | May 7, 2011 4:07:20 PM

  13. @Phil - and don't forget even a "faux news" anchor - Shepard Smith.

    My only criticism is that photo of Thomas Roberts is horrible. Either it's airbrushed to death or he's wearing more makeup than the late Tammy Faye. I guess in the day of high-def, one feels the need to apply foundation, but damn. It's terribly emasculating.

    Posted by: Adam | May 7, 2011 5:06:29 PM

  14. Mr. Roberts is an inspiration to all of us. And he's a positive force for some of us old and jaded folks too. I've been happily out forever, but it still makes me feel better to see an openly gay person in public life. And perhaps more importantly, straight journalists don't always "get" our issues the way a gay one does.

    Thank you Mr. Roberts for your courage and your service.

    Posted by: David R. | May 7, 2011 7:17:24 PM

  15. Thomas Roberts is smart, handsome, informed and professional. I can only imagine how much it would have helped me as a kid if there had been someone like him on TV news. I hope we see a lot more of him in the future.

    Posted by: Gregv | May 7, 2011 9:48:58 PM

  16. Gay, Talented and great looking what more needs to be said?

    Posted by: curtis | May 8, 2011 12:56:45 AM

  17. Rachel Maddow wasn't giving rules for news anchors. Those are her beliefs for out and outing in regard to all LGBT people.

    @David Ehrenstein Anderson Cooper didn't lie about his sexuality to climb to the top of the news business. He took the professional risk of living out and being honest within the industry for a career that's been built over a couple of decades. Thomas Roberts has been open about the fact he lied to his employers and co-workers about being straight and went on show dates with women to fool them until he got up to national news. So it wasn't that long ago when Anderson Cooper was someone Thomas Roberts could look to as a role model of a more honest and responsible life.

    Thomas came out after being outed. Thomas never mentioned his sexuality on air until he got to actively liberal MSNBC where doing so was an asset. He never did an interview about being gay until it had become clear he couldn't get work in news or even hold a job on a tabloid entertainment program so any press was better than no press. I'm glad he's out now but he's no patron saint of gays. It's not as though he's the only out news guy on TV or the most heroic. I think because Thomas is white he has gotten a lot more attention than some out men of color I can think of in TV news who have been more stand up guys than him.

    Posted by: kirk | May 10, 2011 2:08:55 PM

  18. @ Adam - Shepard Smith isn't out and he is kind of dishonest about his sexuality. He'll tell interviewers about his divorce from a woman but anything about personal relationships other than the beard marriage is *private*.

    Posted by: robd | May 10, 2011 2:16:56 PM

  19. He was already a television guy when the manhunt profile was exposed.

    It's not like the pics were private pics never intentionally shared with online strangers or posted before he knew he'd be famous.

    When they came out a lot of people positively identified them as him and the background as his residence.

    Posted by: robd | May 10, 2011 2:27:42 PM

  20. Homosexuality IS a mental sickness and ALL homosexuals ARE mentally sick, psychotic!

    Homosexuality and pedophilia are one in the same both are perversion of a sick mind.

    Keep homosexuals away from children and out of society.

    Posted by: GDC | Dec 15, 2011 11:07:48 AM

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