Thomas Roberts: The Atlanta ‘It Gets Better’ Interview
After reporting on CNN in Atlanta for six years, is now reporting live on MSNBC each weekday at 11 A.M.
We caught up with Thomas in New York City to ask about living in Atlanta, coming out, and it getting better…
What can we expect to see on your new 11 A.M. timeslot at MSNBC?
I am just happy to be on the team at MSNBC. That being said, we are trying to bring our viewers a great conversation.
People can expect great guests, excellent reporting and we like add a bit of personality and fun too!
Who have been some of your favorite guests so far?
I will never tell – for fear of playing favorites. But over the course of my career I have had some real stinkers… I hope C.E. Is not reading this.
How is working at MSNBC in New York different from your days at CNN in Atlanta?
I worked with some fantastic and talented people at CNN. Many of those same people are still my dear friends today. But I am thrilled to be here in New York and my new colleagues have welcomed me kindly and I feel so at home already.
What were some of your favorite places to go in Atlanta?
Wow. I know it may not sound overly original… but The Flying Biscuit was always a favorite. And you can’t go wrong with Zocalo’s!
What do you miss about Atlanta that you haven’t found in other cities?
Honestly, I miss my friends and neighbors most of all. Atlanta provided us with wonderful people who will always be considered family – that is an irreplaceable fact that no other city can replicate. I can name more than a dozen people off of the top of my head that I miss seeing daily. And I miss having them all at our home for an old fashioned porch party!
You came out at the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association in Miami in 2006. Was that planned?
There was no real plan in place. I was open about my life to colleagues and friends. When I was invited to attend the convention and be part of a panel discussion I agreed. I thought younger journalists would enjoy knowing you can be honest, proud and chase your professional dreams at the same time. I am proud of how I shared my own story and I can only hope it helped others to realize they can be honest in their professional pursuits as well.
In 2007 you came out publicly again about being sexually abused by a priest in the ‘Anderson Cooper 360′ special, ‘Sins of the Father.’ Why did you want to tell your story so publicly?
There was so much pain and hardship involved with that chapter of my life. Something positive was needed and when I was approached about doing a documentary I felt the end result would help others. I firmly believe that goal was achieved.
At one point you were up for People’s 50 Sexiest Bachelors but you turned it down. Why?
I wasn’t a bachelor so I felt it was false advertising.
This year GLAAD and other groups criticized comments Sherri Shepherd made on The View while you were co-hosting about black women contracting HIV from black men on the ‘down low.’ ABC later cut those comments out of its official YouTube video of the segment. Anything you want to say about that?
Really? I had no idea they cut it out of the official YouTube segment.
I had a great experience on The View but sometimes there are topics, heavy topics, that need to be discussed properly and with fact. The View likes to go for emotion. When that happens, actual facts can be lost and that is a shame. I did my best. They have a great teaching pulpit and I hope to return to join their table again.
That show always seems to get out of control when Barbara Walters isn’t there! Were you secretly wishing she was, and how do you think she would have handled the situation?
I wish Whoopi had been there! I was also seated in the middle which at first I thought was a great seat. However, you spend all your time turning left and right trying to figure out who is talking first. It was like watching a tennis match by sitting on the net. But I sat to the left of Joy Behar and she is a lot of fun.
You recently made an ‘It Gets Better’ video and in it admitted to attempting suicide at 15. Was that video hard to make, and why did you decide to do it?
The recent rash of LGBT teen suicides is heartbreaking. If my sister hadn’t saved my life I could have been one of those kids too. All kids need to understand that no matter what their situation is, they are not alone. I was lucky enough to make it through some very rough years as a kid, and I am resolved to sharing that and just maybe other kids may find an ounce of relief in it. Making the video seemed like the right thing to do.
Gay teens have been getting bullied forever. As a journalist, why do you think the media is suddenly covering it?
I think all kids have been getting bullied forever. However, they have not been driven to suicide in such droves – especially the gay ones. As journalists, we are to report the facts and hopefully spark conversation that helps the whole truth come to light. The truth of it is no kid should be driven to suicide by bullying or any other means for that matter.
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