Australian newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald took down an article on Monday after it set off a storm of accusations on social media that the publication had pressured actress Rebel Wilson to reveal she was dating a woman.
Gossip columnist Andrew Hornery admitted the paper had “mishandled steps in our approach” when trying to break the news that Wilson, who had previously only publicly dated men, was in a relationship with fashion designer Ramona Agruma.
The “Pitch Perfect” actor first announced her relationship on Friday via Instagram, posting a selfie with Agruma and calling her a “Disney Princess”.
Hornery’s column, published the next day, revealed that the Herald had known about the relationship before Wilson’s Instagram post and had on Thursday given the actor two days to comment.
“Big mistake. Wilson opted to gazump the story, posting about her new ‘Disney Princess’ on Instagram early Friday morning,” Hornery wrote in his Saturday column.
The article sparked outrage on social media, with many LGBTQIA+ activists and others accusing the newspaper of forcing Wilson to out herself.
The Herald initially denied pressuring Wilson, with its editor Bevan Shields arguing it had “simply asked questions”.
“We would have asked the same questions had Wilson’s new partner been a man,” Shields wrote.
In her first comments on the controversy, Wilson responded on Sunday to a journalist on Twitter who criticised the Herald’s approach.
“It was a very hard situation but trying to handle it with grace,” Wilson tweeted.
On Monday, the Sydney Morning Herald removed the online article and issued an apology from Hornery, who said putting questions to Wilson “was never intended to be a threat” to reveal her sexuality.
Hornery said he “genuinely regret(ted) that Rebel has found this hard. That was never my intention” and admitted that the paper had “mishandled steps in our approach”.
This was not the first time Wilson has sparred with the Australian media — in 2017, she was awarded a record AUS$4.7 million ($3.3 million) defamation payout over a series of articles that claimed she had lied about her name, age and childhood to get ahead in Hollywood.
After the magazine publisher successfully appealed, Wilson’s award was revised to A$600,000.