When Australian actor Rebel Wilson posted on Instagram last week that she was in a relationship with a woman, fans and friends flooded the comments offering their support.
“I thought I was searching for a Disney Prince… but maybe what I really needed all this time was a Disney Princess,” Wilson wrote in the caption Thursday.
But in the days that followed, the “Pitch Perfect” and “Senior Year” star confirmed that her decision to come out was not entirely her own — a celebrity gossip columnist for an Australian newspaper was planning to run a story on the actor’s relationship with designer Ramona Agruma.
“It was a very hard situation but trying to handle it with grace,” she tweeted Sunday.
In a now-deleted column on Saturday for the Sydney Morning Herald, journalist Andrew Hornery wrote that he had emailed Wilson’s representatives two days before publication asking for comment on her new relationship.
He added that instead of responding, Wilson “opted to gazump the story” by announcing on Instagram that she is dating Agruma ahead of the paper’s publication — a decision Hornery called “underwhelming.”
Representatives for Wilson did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment late Sunday.
Thanks for your comments, it was a very hard situation but trying to handle it with grace 💗
— Rebel Wilson (@RebelWilson) June 12, 2022
The column was criticized by fans, LGBTQ groups and other journalists, who slammed Hornery for planning a story that would “out” Wilson.
“Still reeling from the fact that a publication gave someone a deadline to out them in 2022,” Megha Mohan from the BBC tweeted. “Maybe I’m incredibly naive but this is what I imagined 90s gutter press was like and most journalists had huge standards change since then.”
Herald editor Bevan Shields responded to the backlash on Sunday, defending Hornery’s column. He noted that the writer often chronicles his interactions with celebrities, adding that the column “was not a standard news story.”
“We would have asked the same questions had Wilson’s new partner been a man,” Shields wrote. “To say that the Herald ‘outed’ Wilson is wrong.”
The paper was simply asking questions — a “standard practice,” he continued.
“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 wrote.
But by Monday, the paper had replaced Hornery’s original column with a new one, in which the writer backtracked his Saturday piece and apologized for its insensitive tone. Hornery wrote that he had learned “some new and difficult lessons” and that he and his editors “mishandled steps in our approach.”
Hornery said that his email to Wilson’s publicists was not intended as a threat and that the paper does not want to “‘out’ people.” He acknowledged that his note may have come off threatening, adding that “the framing of it was a mistake.”
“I genuinely regret that Rebel has found this hard,” Hornery wrote. “That was never my intention. … As a gay man I’m well aware of how deeply discrimination hurts.”