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Australian journalist offers apology but denies outing Rebel Wilson

By Ada Pelonia Published Jun 13, 2022 6:20 pm Updated Jun 13, 2022 6:24 pm

An Australian columnist has apologized for a story that appeared to pressure actress Rebel Wilson to come out as gay.

In a new piece published on June 13, Arnold Hornery responded to the criticisms his article received.

“I genuinely regret that Rebel has found this hard. That was never my intention. But I see she has handled it all with extraordinary grace,” he columnist said.   

Hornery claimed he was sticking to his deadlines, hence the reason behind the two days she gave Wilson to respond.   

“I received no reply, which was entirely Rebel’s right,” he said.

The Private Sydney columnist made it known that it was never his intention to "be a threat", but only to engage in an open conversation. He also emphasized that “outing” people was not what the publication is set out to do.   

"My email was never intended to be a threat but to make it clear I was sufficiently confident with my information and to open a conversation," Hornery said. "It is not the Herald’s business to 'out' people and that is not what we set out to do. But I understand why my email has been seen as a threat. The framing of it was a mistake."

Hornery then acknowledged that he made mistakes and extended his apologies.

“In trying to tell the story within the story, which is what Private Sydney does, the tone of my column on Saturday was also off. I got it wrong. I allowed my disappointment to cast a shadow over the piece. That was not fair and I apologise,” Hornery said.  

Meanwhile, Sydney Morning Herald editor Bevan Shields wrote his own statement titled "A note on Rebel Wilson," denying claims that they pressured Rebel Wilson to out herself, saying it had "simply asked questions" and would have done the same if the latter were dating a man. 

“To say that the Herald ‘outed’ Wilson is wrong,” Shields said in the statement.  

“I had made no decision about whether or what to publish, and the Herald’s decision about what to do would have been informed by any response Wilson supplied,” Shields said, further stating that the op-ed article merely followed the theme wherein “the writer’s interaction with his subjects is often part of the story” and gave readers a glimpse of their interaction with Wilson and her PR team. 

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A post shared by Rebel Wilson (@rebelwilson)

Wilson came out on Friday, June 10, along with the announcement of her relationship with Los Angeles-based designer Ramona Agruma. In the Instagram post, she stated: “I thought I was searching for a Disney Prince… but maybe what I really needed all this time was a Disney Princess,” together with the #loveislove hashtag.

After she came out, The Sydney Morning Herald columnist Hornery wrote in now-deleted op-ed article that Wilson “gazumped” the story and considered having asked the latter a “big mistake.”  

“Considering how bitterly Wilson had complained about poor journalism standards when she successfully sued Woman’s Day for defamation, her choice to ignore our discreet, genuine and honest queries was, in our view, underwhelming,” the Private Sydney columnist said.  

Hornery went on with the article to lambast the actress, mentioning Wilson’s previous relationship with businessman Jacob Busch, and stated that celebrities’ relationships were their business but claimed that the Pitch Perfect star “happily fed such prurient interest” when she was with her ex-boyfriend.  

The article received flak on Twitter with fans claiming that the newspaper forced the 42-year-old actress to come out after being given a two days’ notice to provide a comment regarding her relationship with Agruma.  

Wilson replied to journalist Kate Doak’s Tweet regarding the Herald’s alleged plan to “out” her by saying that she was in a very hard situation, but she was trying to handle it with grace. 

This was not the first time Wilson clashed with Australian media. In 2017, the Pitch Perfect star sued an Australian publisher for defamation over a series of articles which she claimed had painted her as a serial liar who fabricated her name, age, and childhood to enter Hollywood. 

She was awarded a payout of $3.4 million ($4.7 million AUD). However, after the publisher appealed, Wilson’s payout was reduced to AU$600,000 ($454,000) because she “could not prove economic loss, or that she'd missed out on film contracts as a result of the articles.”