Shepard Smith opened up a bit about his sexuality in a recent talk at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Smith, an Ole Miss alum, was attending “It Starts With MEek,” a conference promoting diversity and inclusivity at the school.
Though he left before graduating, Smith credits UM with teaching him important lessons about journalism. But, he confessed, he threw himself into his work to avoid dealing with his private life—rarely spending a night at home for a year at a time.
“I’m just traveling, traveling, traveling and popping up all over… And other people needed to get home to their dog, or their children, or their wife, or their husband. And I didn’t need to do that. I needed to sort of escape what my own reality might have been, because I wasn’t answering my own questions, or even posing my own questions to myself about what it is that is different about me”
He admits he didn’t “start living my truth” until eight or nine years ago.
“I grew up in Holly Springs. I went to the First Methodist Church. I went to Ole Miss… We wear khakis and starched white shirts, and we all do what everybody else does,” he explained. “I didn’t need to go home and find my girlfriend or boyfriend. I just cut it off [and said], ’Where do you want me? Next plane?’”
Though his bosses would ask him how he could keep up the pace, he was determined no one would outwork him. The alternative was acknowledging what his upbringing told him was unacceptable: That he was gay.
Smith was married to a woman, Virginia Donald, from 1987 to 1993.
“A. You’re going to hell for it,” he said, listing why he avoided acknowledging his sexuality. “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.”
When news of Roger Ailes’ sexual harassment case went public, Smith said the former Fox CEO “was always good to me.”
“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.”
While many in the LGBT community would scratch their heads over a gay man working for an arch-conservative TV news network, Smith insists his sexuality doesn’t impact his life much.
“It’s not a thing,” he said. “I go to work. I manage a lot of people. I cover the news. I deal with holy hell around me [and] I go home to the man I’m in love with.”