Current Affairs

Comment: Browne shouldn’t have been outed

Benjamin Cohen May 2, 2007
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Peter Tatchell writes

It was ethically wrong for the Mail on Sunday to seek to expose Lord Browne’s homosexuality, and especially wrong for the newspaper to plan the publication of uncorroborated ‘kiss and tell’ revelations from his ex-partner, Jeff Chevalier.

The newspaper colluded with a bitter, greedy former boyfriend who demanded money from Lord Browne, and who implicitly threatened him if he did not pay up.

Mr Chevalier’s actions come close to blackmail and the Mail on Sunday’s actions come close to collusion with blackmail. It is sordid, amoral journalism of the worst kind.

There is no public interest justification for this intrusion into Lord Browne’s private life. He was not guilty of hypocrisy and, at the time the Mail on Sunday originally sought to expose him, he had not committed a crime.

Outing is only defensible when a person is guilty of hypocrisy or criminal acts. Otherwise, a person’s private life should remain private.

Lord Browne was wrong to lie, but that is no excuse to out him or to publish intimate details about his personal relationships.

Even if the Mail on Sunday felt it was justified to publish unverified allegations concerning Lord Browne’s alleged misuse of BP resources, it had no need to mention his homosexuality. His sexual orientation is irrelevant to the issue of whether or not he usedcompany money, staff and computers to assist his former partner.

This story was originally driven by the homophobia of Associated Newspapers. It wanted to out a leading businessman. This is not a legitimate journalistic agenda.

Chevalier and the Mail on Sunday set out to ‘name and shame’ Lord Browne by revealing his homosexuality.

While Lord Browne wanted to keep his private life private, Chevalier and the Mail on Sunday did not.

I can see no demonstrable public interest grounds for the Mail on Sunday – or any other media – outing Lord Browne. He wasn’t being hypocritical or homophobic. If he was denouncing gay people or advocating anti-gay laws – or if he had authorised the victimisation of BPs’ gay employees – that would be a justifiable reason to expose

his sexuality and double standards. I would have outed him myself. But I am not aware that Lord Browne was homophobic. He may have shown moral weakness by not coming out, but hiding in the closet – however lamentable – is not ethically of the same order as endorsing homophobic prejudice and discrimination.

The lessons from the fall of Lord Browne are: don’t lie or cover-up, and it is best to be honest and open about one’s sexuality

The views expressed here are that of Peter Tatchell, not necessarily of

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