Apparently when gay MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts heard that Bravo’s Andy Cohen had backed out of hosting the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, Russia, on Nov. 9, he “aggressively” went after the job—despite the furor over the horrific anti-gay laws in that country.
Last August, Cohen told E!'s Giuliana Rancic, with whom he’s co-hosted the pageant for the past two years:
[Russia's] discriminatory policies make it unsafe for the gays who live there and gays coming to work or visit. ... The law is that anyone under suspicion of homosexuality can be arrested. I didn’t feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia.
Of course the ever-classy Donald Trump told New York Magazine he hadn’t even asked Andy to participate yet:
“So many people want to host the Miss Universe Pageant. We haven’t asked Andy Cohen to host the pageant in Russia, but I can understand his feelings on the matter. It is my hope that the Miss Universe Pageant will help foster common understanding and appreciation of the rights of all individuals.”
Yeah, that’s why so many bugged-out eyeballs tune into the near-naked beauty contest—to see some of that understanding and appreciation of rights, while Tea Party darling and perennial 'birther' Donald Trump sucks up all that dough.
The well-intentioned Roberts apparently wants to be an LGBT role model for the world, writing:
Courage is contagious. I have felt that way since coming out publicly in 2006. I’ve never regretted it.
This November, I will co-host Miss Universe in Moscow partly because it is a huge, visible opportunity for LGBT people. Everywhere....
I am just like millions of LGBT people around the world. We are good, regular, hard-working people who come from solid families. So when I heard there was a chance at this assignment I aggressively went after it. Lo and behold, the Miss Universe team, NBC Entertainment and the Trump team agreed and offered it to me.”
Now, he’s “diametrically opposed” to these new homophobic laws Russian President Vladimir Putin has put in place—“laws that criminalize and stigmatize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies in Russia”—and notes that “the Miss Universe Organization issued its own statement that Russian laws are ‘diametrically opposed to the core values’ of Miss Universe.”
And Roberts is “unafraid to say I am proud of my husband and my family—I’m proud of their love for me. I’m proud of the incredible steps forward equality has taken this year.”
So people may wonder: “Thomas, how can you accept this assignment? Shouldn’t you boycott Russia?” I am not going to boycott. Boycotting and vilifying from the outside is too easy. Rather, I choose to offer my support of the LGBT community in Russia by going to Moscow and hosting this event as a journalist, an anchor and a man who happens to be gay. Let people see I am no different than anyone else.
All kids—Russian, American or otherwise—need hope. I am a happy, healthy, gainfully employed, educated and married man. And yes, I am gay. These new Russian laws won’t stop Russians from being born LGBT and growing up to identify as such. Russia’s treatment of its LGBT citizens is unacceptable, unrealistic and only promotes homophobia and intolerance for a community that
We do them no favors by turning away now. We must be visible, we must show up and, as Harvey Milk said, we must “give them hope.”
I go to prove there’s hope.”
Except Thomas Roberts is not going as a journalist covering the pageant, where, like Anderson Cooper, he can insert himself into the story. And he’s no flamboyant Elton John or Liberace where someone looking at near-naked women is going to look over and say, “Hey, he’s gay!” No one’s going to know or suspect or care because Roberts easily passes as straight. And I doubt Trump is going to let him shout his not-so-secret love from the highest hills, get arrested and become a celebrity test case for the anti-gay 'propaganda' law.
So Roberts must do a lot of pre-pageant publicity to let those LGBT people know he’s coming. And maybe then Trump will loosen the contract strings and let him appear on Moscow TV and talk about being a good gay with a good job and a loving husband. He does appear to be a good guy, after all. But Miss Universe is still a money-making venture—not a platform for LGBT or human rights. He might find juggling Trump harder to deal with than his Russian minders.