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Why Did Esquire Bounce the Bryan Singer Story?

By Mike Redmond | Industry | February 27, 2019 |

By Mike Redmond | Industry | February 27, 2019 |


Two days before the Oscars, the Columbia Journalism Review published an extensive interview with Alex French and Maximillian Potter, the two reporters responsible for the Bryan Singer exposé that surprisingly appeared in The Atlantic despite months of it being promoted as a project for Esquire. In the most journalistic of terms, this was f*cking weird.

Unfortunately, the fantastic CJR interview was inevitably shoved to the side by Bohemian Rhapsody’s prominent presence at the Oscars, including Rami Malek’s win for Best Actor, which resulted in numerous jokes about how everyone is just gonna go ahead and pretend that Bryan Singer doesn’t exist.

(For the record, I’m 100 percent Team Rami Malek Knew.)

So now that we’re a few days out from an award show that no one should ever take seriously again because it gave goddamn Green Book Best Picture, I can’t recommend enough that you give the French and Potter interview a read, because it does a very thorough job of explaining their research process and the shenanigans that went down with Esquire even after their piece had passed a thorough fact-checking and legal review. It was, uh, it was some shit.

[Potter:] The executives presented, essentially, two options. The first is we make Bryan Singer a blind item. I didn’t say anything. Alex didn’t say anything. The second option is to run a longer version, serialized on the web. It didn’t make any sense. The blind item idea struck me as preposterous on the face of it. I mean, why even bother? With the other idea—of running longer, as a serial on the web—I was like, “So, we identify Bryan? Or not?” It was starting to feel like a slow-walk-into-a-jog-to-a-kill, to me.

French: At one point, Jay asked if we can find more victims. “They’re looking for more presentable victims. The guys you have in your story are all troubled. They’ve had problems with drugs or alcohol. They’ve been arrested.” And we were just like, Wow.

Potter: More presentable? Of course these alleged victims had their lives turned upside down! That’s kind of the point. I told Jay I didn’t even understand what strategy or deliverables Alex and I are supposed to try to get. Because we’ve just gone from a blind item feature on Bryan Singer to a longer, serialized version. What were we supposed to do right now? So we asked for a meeting with the Hearst executives so could get some clarity.

As we all know, Esquire ultimately passed on the Singer story, and according to Potter and French, the main hang-up is Hearst executives repeatedly referred to the alleged victims as just some guys who had consensual sex with Singer. (And, yes, that sounds eerily similar to Singer’s legal response, which included the Orwellian term “underage men.”) It turns out Esquire didn’t have the courage to stand up for the gay victims of alleged sexual assault, but take a look at who they’ll absolutely go to bat for in the middle of Black History Month.

You see, gay teens allegedly being raped by powerful Hollywood directors as the entire industry looks the other way isn’t a problem in need of serious journalism. It’s not being able to play devil’s advocate at cocktail parties without being correctly called a privileged white dick.

From the always excellent Robyn Pennacchia at Wonkette:

Yo, Jay? That was an ideological echo chamber. You were in an ideological echo chamber. The ideological echo chamber was calling from inside the house. The “thrilling intellectual exercise” of playing devil’s advocate was easy when neither you nor the vast majority of people around you had any personal stake in the issue, and those who did, well, they knew to pick their battles. Just as you must do now.

People still have “crackling” debates and people still argue about things. Just look at Twitter! People argue constantly! The difference for Jay Fielden, perhaps, is that he now has to be more considerate of others should he want them to continue hanging around him. Sure, it’s a little tougher for him to navigate than when the only people who had any real power looked like him and thought like him, when the people at the table never had any stake in anything, but he’s just gonna have to suck it up.

When you bounce an article exposing one of Hollywood’s (allegedly) biggest predators because his victims were “just some gays” then turn around and lament the plight of white boys in the Midwest who… *checks notes*… sometimes get told not to be an asshole on Instagram, maybe that’s a good time to delete your whole magazine. Roll that shit up, and toss it in the fire. You had a good run.

(Sorry, Charlie Pierce.)

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Mike is a Staff Contributor living in Pennsyltucky. You can follow him on Twitter.

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