Rosie O’Donnell outs Clay Aiken, sort of, after his spat with Kelly Ripa

When I arrived back in the US this weekend, I bought the New York Times and, in a front-page story, found a report that kind of made me wish I hadn’t bothered to try to reconnect with our culture. As the paper reported, “Cindy Milsap, 43, and her daughter, Ashley, 20, woke up before dawn to drive to the nearby Wal-Mart Supercenter, which advertised a 52-inch high-definition television for $474. ‘We don’t really need a new TV, Ms. Milsap said. ‘But at that price? C’mon.”

As pathetically superficial and screwed-up as that is, I was almost more surprised to find out that the breaking reality TV news of last week was a feud involving Clay Aiken. And Kelly Ripa. And Rosie O’Donnell. And it lasted for days and days. It must have been a really slow news week.

Apparently, Kelly Ripa got irritated when Clay placed his hand over her mouth to shut her up. Even though Kelly has done the exact same thing before, she responded quasi-angrily, saying,
“That’s a no-no. I don’t know where that hand’s been, honey.”

That prompted Rosie O’Donnell on The View to say her remarks were “homophobic,” which assumes Kelly meant his hands were dirty because they’ve been touching man parts. Rosie said, “If that was a straight man, if that was a cute man, if that was a guy she didn’t question his sexuality, she would have said a different thing. I guarantee if that was Mario Lopez, she would not have said the same thing.” Kelly called in to The View to defend herself and said she was just worried about the flu.

Clay later made fun of himself at the AMAs, where co-presenter Tori Spelling put her hand over his mouth. And the whole thing finally ended when Barbara Walters said it was over: “Rosie and Kelly talked yesterday after the show. Rosie and Clay Aiken have talked. And all is well with the world, and all is well with them.”

But as Access Hollywood notes, “What exactly Rosie said to Clay is unknown, but if Clay is gay many people believe that Rosie, while standing up for the singer, may have inadvertently outed him in the process.” Curiously, Katharine McPhee, told the show that Rosie “did. She kind of outed Clay. That’s his personal business that no one really knows.” Is it possible to out Clay any more than this guy already did?

Ultimately, as Towleroad points out, “the real elephant in the room here is all the backing away from Aiken’s sexuality. … the greater homophobia is the insinuation that asking Aiken even to address the rumors regarding his sexuality is a horrible thing despite the fact that these hosts ask heterosexual stars all the time whether certain dating rumors are true or not.”

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.