Anderson Cooper is best known as a news anchor on CNN. However, while he’s never made a secret of his sexuality, he’s also rarely spoken openly about it. But since becoming a father, the journalist has also been more candid about his personal life. And he explained to talk show host Ellen DeGeneres why he’d not opened up before.
When Ellen sat down for a catch-up with Cooper in May 2020, it was the first time they’d spoken on air for more than a decade. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot had changed in the journalist’s life since 2009, the last time the pair had publicly engaged. For one, he hadn’t yet put his sexuality up for discussion at that juncture.
Moreover, at a time when many people are spending more time at home, Cooper has an additional reason to do so. You see, the 52-year-old newscaster welcomed his first child into the world in April 2020. So, for the new father, the extra time working from home has been an unexpected blessing.
And Cooper wanted to spread some good news in a time of so much suffering. So the journalist took to his Instagram page to reveal the latest addition to his family. Many of the CNN anchor’s 2.4 million followers gushed over the new arrival, and some media colleagues took the opportunity to spread the love.
For instance, Ellen invited Cooper onto her talk show to tell the world about the new addition to his family. And the CNN journalist opened up about more than becoming a father. Indeed, he spoke openly about something he’d rarely addressed openly before: his sexuality. He also explained exactly why it’s taken until now for him to address the subject.
Cooper was born in New York City in the summer of 1967. He’s the son of heiress Gloria Vanderbilt and author Wyatt Emory Cooper. With such famous parents, then, Cooper quickly became used to life in the spotlight. Nevertheless, his young life was one filled with desperate heartbreak and unexpected tragedy.
You see, devastation hit Cooper’s family in 1978, when he was just ten years old. That January, his father passed away during an operation on his heart. His dad was later described by Vanderbilt and Cooper as “the glue who held the family together,” according to MSN. Nonetheless, the bond between the remaining family members strengthened after the loss, with Cooper and his elder sibling often being photographed by their mother’s side.
It was around this time that Cooper entered into a contract with the high-profile agency Ford Models. He featured in campaigns run by designer fashion brand Ralph Lauren and department store chain Macy’s. However, Cooper’s modeling career came to an end three years later when, he claimed, a male photographer made advances towards him.
Besides, Cooper appeared to have another career path in mind. After graduating from the prestigious Dalton School, he enrolled at Yale to train to be a journalist. However, it wasn’t long before a second tragedy struck the family. This time, a devastating fate befell Cooper’s older brother, Carter.
In July 1988 Vanderbilt saw her eldest son fall from the wall of the family’s Manhattan apartment terrace. She watched as he plummeted 14 stories to his death, an act that’s believed to have been deliberate. Though their second loss in a decade brought her and Cooper closer still, their lives were irrevocably altered.
“Well, I remember the first Christmas we were together after it happened – cause he died July 22 – and we went to the movies,” Vanderbilt recalled in a 2019 interview with People. “And then we went to the automat, and from then on we’ve never done anything about Christmas.”
Cooper explained that they never got over the loss of his brother. “I think it obviously brought us together in ways and I think you can’t help but come closer going through something like that,” he said. “It left us with each other. It’s still hard to believe it’s been so long, because I think it’s still so present in our lives, that sense of loss.”
Nonetheless, the tragedy didn’t derail Cooper’s career aspirations. In 1989 the budding news broadcaster graduated from Yale, scored an internship at the CIA and looked for his break in TV. During a 2013 acceptance speech at American University, he described his time at the CIA as “less James Bond than I hoped it would be.”
Cooper got a job as a fact-checker for the youth current affairs show Channel One News. However, frustrated by the lack of interest from major broadcasters, he struck out on his own. In fact, he created a counterfeit press pass and headed to South-East Asia, where he documented the conflict on the Myanmar-Thailand border between troops and refugees.
It was a bold and risky move, but it paid off when Cooper was made an overseas reporter by Channel One. For the next four years, he risked his life reporting on brutal conflicts in the likes of Rwanda, Bosnia, Haiti, Israel and many more. His talents subsequently came to the attention of ABC, which hired him in 1995.
However, the world of news reporting took a heavy toll on Cooper. And when he landed a co-hosting position on World News Now, which was broadcast during ABC’s graveyard shift, the workload proved too much. The journalist consequently took a sabbatical from news casting in 2000, when he began presenting the network’s game-show, The Mole.
“My last year at ABC, I was working overnights anchoring this newscast then during the day at 20/20,” Cooper explained to the MediaBistro.com website in November 2010. “I was sleeping in two- or four-hour shifts, and I was really tired and wanted a change. I wanted to clear my head and get out of news a little bit.”
Nevertheless, Cooper felt the pull of news reporting again in 2001 after 9/11. He consequently became a reporter for CNN, where he presented the Anderson Cooper 360° show from 2003, while also consistently appearing on the channel’s NewsNight program. The journalist gained further recognition for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina’s destructive path across the nation in 2005.
Cooper’s reports about Katrina’s impact resonated with audiences and elevated his profile. He then wrote a book, 2007’s Dispatches From The Edge, which recalled his experiences in combat zones. And yet despite having never been far from the spotlight, he remained private when it came to his personal life.
In fact, Cooper’s family, friends and colleagues had always known that he was gay. It wasn’t something he ever tried to hide or deny. However, neither was it something that he’d ever talked about publicly. Indeed, when the subject was broached during a 2005 interview with culture magazine New York, the journalist skirted around the question.
“The whole thing about being a reporter is that you’re supposed to be an observer and to be able to adapt with any group you’re in, and I don’t want to do anything that threatens that,” Cooper explained. Seven years later, though, the reporter had a change of heart and decided to address questions regarding his sexuality.
In 2012 Cooper wrote an open email to writer Andrew Sullivan, then of news website The Daily Beast. Cooper began, “The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.” You see, the newscaster felt that by not addressing the subject, he could be perceived as being embarrassed about his sexuality.
“I have always been very open and honest about this part of my life with my friends, my family, and my colleagues,” Cooper continued. “In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted. I’m not an activist, but I am a human being and I don’t give that up by being a journalist.”
Cooper further explained that he didn’t want to be perceived as being embarrassed about his sexuality by not speaking more openly about it. What’s more, he felt that by addressing the subject publicly, he would become part of a conversation for greater LGBTQ visibility and, in turn, better treatment of minority groups.
Despite becoming more comfortable talking about his sexuality publicly, though, Cooper still tends to keep his private life closely guarded. Nevertheless, the journalist went on the record about his relationship with nightclub owner Benjamin Maisani in 2015. But even though the two men still have a lot of affection for each other, their relationship didn’t last.
“[Maisani] and I separated as boyfriends some time ago,” Cooper explained in a statement to ET. “We are still family to each other, and love each other very much.” Although the CNN anchor was rumored to be involved with a doctor named Victor Lopez throughout 2018, there’s little time in Cooper’s life for romance right now.
That’s because, as Cooper announced to his millions of Instagram followers in May 2020, “On Monday, I became a father.” The newscaster posted several photos with his newborn son, Wyatt Morgan Cooper, whom he described as “sweet, and soft, and healthy.” He named his child in honor of his dad, four decades after his passing.
As Cooper explained to Ellen, his new blessing couldn’t have been better timed. You see, the baby’s arrival came almost a year after the newscaster’s mom passed away from cancer aged 95. And Wyatt’s middle name, Morgan, was inspired by Cooper’s mother, as it was it the maiden name of the newscaster’s maternal grandmother.
Ellen couldn’t help but note that becoming a father wasn’t the only thing that had changed in Cooper’s life since they last spoke. Indeed, it had been a decade since the pair had been in an interview scenario together. And when Ellen was last face to face with the journalist, he still hadn’t spoken publicly about his personal life.
“I came out in high school to my friends and my family and stuff, and was open at work,” Cooper explained. “But yes, in a public way, I was not. I hadn’t made a statement about it. I never said I wasn’t gay or tried to hide it or pretend that [I was] anything else. I just… didn’t want to talk about it.”
Cooper then spoke to Ellen about his experience of coming out in 2012, “It got to a point in my life where… by not saying something, that seemed like I was indicating that I was somehow ashamed of something or not happy being gay,” he recalled. “And the complete opposite has always been the case.” What’s more, the arrival of his son has inspired the newscaster to be even more open about his sexuality.
“I consider it, along with [my son] Wyatt, one of the great blessings of my life to be gay,” Cooper told Ellen. “So, even though I’m kind of painfully shy, an introvert and stuff, I thought, ‘OK, well, I want to say something.’ And so I did, and I couldn’t be happier.”
“Even though you think you’re out, and even though you think everybody knows and it doesn’t matter, it does matter, and it makes a difference,” Cooper explained. Remembering a time he’d seen Ellen speak openly about her own sexuality, the journalist credited her for inspiring him. “I just felt so proud of you,” he said. “And I still to this day do, when I see all you’ve achieved.”
Nonetheless, there were other factors that Cooper had to take into account. His own personal safety, for instance. You see, during his years as an international correspondent, he’d spent much of his time in other countries. And some of those nations’ cultures don’t respond kindly to homosexuality.
“I wish I had [spoken about it publicly] sooner,” Cooper admitted. “It’s made things more difficult where I work and where I travel. I travel to a lot of countries where it’s illegal and they kill people because of it, or jail them, so that’s something I have to take into consideration. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
As a single father, though, Cooper has a new perspective on life. Referring to his mom’s passing, in May 2020 he told The Late Show host Stephen Colbert, “In the midst of tragedy and horror, you expect to find horror but you find humanity as well. You expect to see terrible things, but there are also triumphant things and extraordinary things… It’s the fullness of the human experience.”
Moreover, despite the absence of an extended family, Cooper still has plenty of friends for help and advice. Indeed, there’s enough love between the journalist and Maisani that they plan to co-parent Wyatt. What’s more, fans are hopeful of a romantic spark between Cooper and fellow journalist Andy Cohen. You see, Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live! host became a father himself in 2019.
When it comes to Cohen, however, Cooper is “very uncomfortable” with anything beyond friendship. In fact, on an episode of Watch What Happens Live!, it emerged that both of them had, at different times, dated the same man. Furthermore, it also transpired that they’d once been scheduled to go on a blind date together.
“Andy and I were first set up on a blind date, which never happened because we had a phone call and after two minutes I said, ‘I’m not dating this guy!’” Cooper recalled. “He broke my cardinal rule: he mentioned my mom within the first four sentences of meeting me.”
So, it looks as though Cooper will remain single for now. And, as he posted on Instagram, “I do wish my mom and dad and my brother, Carter, were alive to meet Wyatt, but I like to believe they can see him. I imagine them all together, arms around each other, smiling and laughing, happy to know that their love is alive in me and in Wyatt, and that our family continues.”