Kevin Spacey criticized for using apology to come out

It's seen as intentional distraction from accusation
Kevin Spacey at the Juilliard School in New York on May 29, 2017.
Kevin Spacey at the Juilliard School in New York on May 29, 2017.

Kevin Spacey evaded questions about his sexuality for years, insisting that it was a private matter even as Hollywood gossip surrounded him. On Sunday, the celebrated actor confirmed what had long been whispered: “I choose now to live as a gay man,” he wrote.

But some of those who might have supported him were instead incensed by the implication that his sexuality was relevant to an accusation, reported by BuzzFeed News, that he had made a sexual advance toward a 14-year-old boy 31 years ago. They saw his coming out story as an intentional distraction from the accusation and a damaging conflation of homosexuality and pedophilia.

On Twitter, Billy Eichner, an actor, wrote: “Kevin Spacey has just invented something that has never existed before: a bad time to come out.” That sentiment was shared across Hollywood and the gay community, as people criticized the timing and tactics of Spacey’s response. Some also directed ire at news organizations that appeared to focus more on Spacey’s coming out than the sexual misconduct accusations.

On Sunday, BuzzFeed News reported that Anthony Rapp, an actor, said Spacey had made a sexual advance toward him in 1986, when Rapp was 14. He said that Spacey, who was then 26, had picked him up, placed him on a bed and climbed on top of him.

Spacey did not offer a comment to BuzzFeed. But shortly after the story was published, he released a statement in which he said he did not recall the encounter. “But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior,” he said in the statement.

The accusation “has encouraged me to address other things about my life,” he continued in the statement. He then publicly divulged for the first time that he had “loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life.”

While coming out is often met with support by peers, fans and gay rights activists, the response was far different for Spacey.

“Coming out stories should not be used to deflect from allegations of sexual assault,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive of GLAAD, a gay rights organization, said in a statement. “This is not a coming out story about Kevin Spacey, but a story of survivorship by Anthony Rapp and all those who bravely speak out against unwanted sexual advances. The media and public should not gloss over that.”

George Takei, who has used his large social media following to advocate social-justice causes, said in an emailed statement that Rapp’s accusations were about power, not sexuality.

“Men who improperly harass or assault do not do so because they are gay or straight — that is a deflection,” he said. “They do so because they have the power, and they chose to abuse it.”

Zachary Quinto, an actor, said in a statement that Spacey had come out not “as a point of pride” that could inspire children but “as a calculated manipulation to deflect attention from the very serious accusation that he attempted to molest one.”

“I am sorry that Kevin only saw fit to acknowledge his truth when he thought it would serve him — just as his denial served him for so many years,” he said.

A representative for Spacey did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

While Spacey made reference to rumors regarding his sexuality when he hosted the 2017 Tony Awards, he had never publicly confirmed them and fiercely guarded his privacy.

In 2010, Kevin Sessums, a journalist, pressed Spacey on his sexuality in an interview for The Daily Beast.

“We gay men have always proudly claimed you as a member of our tribe, and yet you don’t proudly claim us back,” Sessums said. “Why?”

Spacey responded: “Look, I might have lived in England for the last several years but I’m still an American citizen and I have not given up my right to privacy.”

Sessums continued the line of questioning, but Spacey pivoted to a discussion of bullying without addressing his own sexuality.

“No one’s personal life is in the public interest,” Spacey said. “It’s gossip, bottom line. End of story.”

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