Survivor contestant Jeff Varner has been fired from his job, days after he outed transgender tribemate Zeke Smith on the reality competition.
The real estate agent, 50, faced harsh social media backlash after the controversial moment aired on Survivor: Game Changers on Wednesday, April 12. (Watch it in the video above.)
In an interview with News & Record Greensboro on Thursday, April 13, Varner said that he’s been let go from his job at Allen Tate Realtors. Varner said that he was told that he is “in the middle of a news story that we don’t want anything to do with.”
As Us Weekly previously reported, the former TV news anchor outed Smith during an emotionally charged tribal council on the show, accusing the 29-year-old of being “deceptive” as he tried to save himself from elimination.
“There is deception here,” he told the show’s host, Jeff Probst. “Deception on levels, Jeff, that these guys don’t even understand.” Then, turning to Smith, he asked, “Why haven’t you told anyone here you’re transgender?”
He was immediately condemned by the other members of his tribe, while Smith at first remained silent.
Varner, who is already out as gay, was then told to leave the show by Probst.
In an interview with Us Weekly on Thursday, the three-time Survivor contestant revealed he has been in therapy since the incident happened almost a year ago, and said he had no excuse for what he’d done.
“Nobody should ever do that,” he told Us. “You can’t out people. Because then you marginalize them, you shame them, you stigmatize them, you force them back in the closet. You don’t allow them to fit in and that’s a horrible place. I firmly believe outing is assault. It robs them of their safety and their protection. I’m devastated I’m the one who did that.”
In a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, Smith wrote that he has struggled to forgive Varner.
“I can’t foresee us sipping martinis together in Fire Island,” he wrote on Wednesday. “While I can reconcile the personal slight of him outing me, I continue to be troubled by his willingness to deploy such a dangerous stereotype on a global platform.”
“But forgiveness does not require friendship,” he continued. “Forgiveness does not require forgetting or excusing his actions. Forgiveness requires hope. Hope that he understands the injury he caused and does not inflict it upon others. Hope that whatever torments his soul will plague him no more. I have hope for Jeff Varner. I just choose to hope from afar, thank you very much.”