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CBS Stands By Decision to Air 'Survivor' Episode Featuring Zeke Smith Being Outed

CBS has released a statement to stand by the decision to air the episode of Survivor that featured transgender contestant Zeke Smith being outed by competitor Jeff Varner.

While trying to fight to stay in the game during tribal council, Varner told his tribe that Zeke was capable of deception as he had not told them he is transgender yet.

Varner, who is gay, apologized for his actions during the episode and showed deep remorse for the pain he caused. He has expressed remorse for his mistake in media interviews this week as well.

“After the tribal council scene in last night’s Survivor was filmed, we consulted with Zeke Smith and with GLAAD in advance of the broadcast, including the issue of how Zeke would tell his story after the episode aired,” the network said in a statement (via THR). “This is his second consecutive season on Survivor. From his first season through the current edition, we have always been guided by the principle that this is his story to tell, and it remains so.”

“We support how Jeff Probst and the producers handled a very sensitive situation and marvel at the grace Zeke exhibited under extraordinary circumstances,” the network added.
“We have also respect for how Jeff Varner has expressed remorse for his mistake, both in the episode and in his subsequent dialogue with the media. In the end, we believe this episode, accompanied by Zeke‘s own remarkable writing and speaking on the subject, has provided an unexpected but important dialogue about acceptance and treating transgender people with respect.”

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CBS Worked with Survivor's Zeke Smith & GLAAD for Months Leading Up to Outing Episode

Zeke Smith was outed as transgender on last night’s episode of Survivor, and it was revealed that CBS worked with Zeke and GLAAD for months leading up to the viewing.

“Zeke Smith, and transgender people like him, are not deceiving anyone by being their authentic selves, and it is dangerous and unacceptable to out a transgender person. It is heartening, however, to see the strong support for Zeke from the other people in his tribe. Moments like this prove that when people from all walks of life get to know a transgender person, they accept us for who we are,” a statement from GLAAD read.

“GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program worked with Zeke Smith and CBS for several months to ensure that when the episode aired Zeke would have the opportunity to speak for himself about his experience,” GLAAD added.

We send our continual support to Zeke after the events of the episode.

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Survivor's Jeff Varner is 'Devastated' Over Outing Zeke Smith

Jeff Varner, the Survivor contestant who outed fellow castaway Zeke Smith during last night’s episode, is speaking out.

He did his exit interviews this morning and was emotional and apologetic.

“I have apologized to him. We’ve spoken several times on the phone. He continually forgives me,” Jeff told EW. “I’m amazed and moved by his ability to do that. I know that forgiveness is difficult. I know he has a lot of people in his ear. I know that watching this last night was traumatic, not only for me and my family. I can only imagine what it was like for him and his friends. I hurt him.”

“I will say that I have spent 10 months stewing in this awful, horrible mistake I made,” Jeff said. “I have been through I don’t now how much therapy with the show’s therapist, with a local therapist, I have met with and spoken to several LGBT organizations, I have joined the board of a couple of them, I joined a national study on outness. This has changed me drastically. But I don’t want to spend two minutes talking about my experience because this isn’t about me. This is about Zeke. And I can only profusely apologize.”

Jeff added, “And if I can deliver any message to anybody it’s that we should never out or marginalize a trans person. It stigmatizes them. It shames them, It pushes them back into the shadows which is the opposite of what we need. We are forcing them as a society to not be their themselves.”

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Zeke Smith Reacts to Emotional 'Survivor' Episode Where He's Outed as Transgender

Zeke Smith took to Instagram after the latest episode of Survivor: Game Changers to discuss being outed as transgender by a fellow contestant.

The contestant on the show – who lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as an asset manager – took to his Instagram account to speak about the experience.

ALSO READ: Survivor’s Jeff Varner Apologizes For Outing Zeke Smith in the ‘Worst Decision of His Life’

“I cannot adequately express how touched and honored I am for the overwhelming love and support I’ve received tonight. It’s been a long nine months awaiting this night. I couldn’t have made it through the journey without Nick Adams, Director of @glaad ‘s Transgender Media Program. He’s been a guide, mentor, and friend over these tumultuous months. I love you, Nick!” Zeke wrote.

A post shared by Zeke Smith (@zekerchief) on

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Survivor's Zeke Smith Opens Up About Being Outed On TV

Zeke Smith, a contestant on this season of Survivor who was outed as transgender by another contestant, is opening up about the entire experience.

He penned a very eloquent guest column for THR in which he recalls the tribal council where Jeff Varner announced to their tribe – and in turn, millions of people – the very private information.

“I remember walking into Tribal Council that night. I remember the smell of the kerosene in our torches,” Zeke writes. “I remember the smug smirk on [Jeff]‘s face and the gleam in his eye when he turned to me and snarled, ‘Why haven’t you told anyone that you’re transgender?’”

“The lights magnified in brightness. The cameras, though 30 feet away, suddenly felt inches from my face. All sound faded,” Zeke continues. “Something primal deep inside me screamed: run. I lost control of my body, my legs bounced up and down uncontrollably, willing me to flee, but the rest of me sat dead as stone. To my left was The Abyss. I could’ve made a clean break for it, but I knew there was no running from what had happened. Cameras would follow me, if not that night, then eventually. Running was not an option. So I sat blank, almost in a trance, unaware of what happened around me, trying to form a plan.”

Zeke reacted with such grace and compassion, something that was noted by host Jeff Probst during the episode and on social media after it aired.

“I knew that Varner‘s actions, though targeted at me, had nothing to do with me and everything to do with him,” Zeke writes. “His terrible utterances were not an effect of my actions, but a reflection of his own personal maladies.”

Still, despite giving Jeff a hug when he was voted out, Zeke admits that forgiveness hasn’t been easy.

“If we’re being perfectly honest with one another, I’ve struggled with that forgiveness in the months following,” he says. “I can’t foresee us sipping martinis together in Fire Island. 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.”

In case you missed it, you can read Jeff‘s apology here.

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Survivor's Jeff Varner Apologizes For Outing Zeke Smith in the 'Worst Decision of His Life'

Jeff Varner has broken his silence following a controversial episode of Survivor in which he outed fellow contestant Zeke Smith as transgender during a tribal council.

He took to Instagram to apologize to Zeke in a written statement.

“Yep. I did that. And I offer my deepest, most heart-felt apologies to Zeke Smith, his friends and life allies, his family and to all those who my mistake hurt and offended,” Jeff wrote. “I recklessly revealed something I mistakenly believed everyone already knew. I was wrong and make no excuses for it. I own responsibility in what is the worst decision of my life.”

“Let me be clear, outing someone is assault,” he continued. “It robs a strong, courageous person of their power and protection and opens them up to discrimination and danger. It can leave scars that haunt for a lifetime. I am profoundly sorry. Zeke is a wonderful man and I will forever be amazed and inspired by his forgiveness and compassion. I thank God for that and the gift of being an example as to why you should never do what I did.”

MORE: Survivor Fans React to Zeke Smith Being Outed As Transgender

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