Merv Griffin was gay. There. Is that plain enough for ya? No gossip, no scandal, no snickering behind the back. Just reality. Why should that be so uncomfortable to contemplate? Why is it so difficult to write? Why are we still so jittery even about raising the issue in purportedly liberal-minded Hollywood, in 2007?
That column was taken off Past Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter's website briefly before being restored a few hours later. Reuters, which provides Richmond's column on its wire service, also struck the column, but chose not to restore it, stating "We have dropped the story from our entertainment news feed as it did not meet our standards for news."
In today's Past Deadline ("Setting the Record Straight [So to Speak] on My Merv Griffin Uproar"), Richmond addresses the dustup:
What I continue to wrestle with is the whole question of how such a gentle, respectful utterance could provoke such a severe and polarizing reaction. I naturally acknowledge that there are two ways of looking at this, and one is that I had no right to override Griffin's personal decision to keep his private life his own business. I opted instead to err on the side of truth and candor, with the idea that disclosing Merv's being gay can't personally impact him after death and -- unless we attach shame to it -- ought not to taint his legacy in any way. I still firmly believe that and would retract nothing I wrote in the column.
I spoke to Richmond this morning by phone.
Q. Reuters said that it dropped your story from its newsfeed because it didn’t meet their standard for news. Have any of your other columns not met their standard for news?
Ray Richmond: No. I believe this is the first. My guess is that they got some kind of heat from some high-up source. Who knows what their reasons were. It’s baffling to me, because suddenly their editorial standards 'evolved' over a few hours. But it underscored the point of the column, which is how discussing these things makes everybody in the media squeamish. The mainstream is baffled as to how to handle it.
Q. Did anyone from Reuters contact you about the column?
No. I’ve never spoken to anyone from Reuters. Ever. Period. I still think this was the same respectful tone I used in my other Griffin columns. I don’t think this suddenly became TMZ territory. Even TMZ isn’t writing about this.
Q. Have you heard from Harvey Levin or anyone at TMZ?
I have not.
Q. Did you or any of your editors talk to Reuters about the column being pulled?
I have no information about my people at the Reporter discussing it with them. They did not contact me; I did not contact them after the fact. I would’ve told them: I believe this meets your standards for news. It remains baffling -- and a bit disturbing -- why it suddenly became unfit.
None of the people you just mentioned, no. The only mainstream, quote-unquote, source that seemed to be on top of this was Editor & Publisher, which is a sister publication of The Hollywood Reporter, and a longtime, respected journalistic trade. I applaud Editor & Publisher for covering this.
Q. So Felling wrote his column without contacting you at all? [On August 21, Felling blogged about the flap on Public Eye in an entry titled "Two Bits About Obits," which began with the words "Who has the right to decide what belongs in an obituary?" which not only mischaracterized an opinion column as an obituary, but went on to misidentify Richmond, who had worked on The Merv Griffin Show, as a "long-time friend" of Griffin's. Felling, the former media director for the Center for Media and Public Affairs, didn't respond to two emailed requests for comment.]
I never received a phone call or email myself.