AceShowbiz - The Wednesday, April 12 episode of CBS's "Survivor" whipped fans into a frenzy after Jeff Varner outed his fellow contestant Zeke Smith as transgender. Despite the criticism, the network is standing affirm by the decision to broadcast the controversial episode.
CBS said in a statement released on Thursday, April 13, "After the tribal council scene in last night's Survivor was filmed, we consulted with Zeke Smith and with GLAAD in advance of the broadcast, including the issue of how Zeke would tell his story after the episode aired." The statement continued, "This is his second consecutive season on Survivor. From his first season through the current edition, we have always been guided by the principle that this is his story to tell, and it remains so."
"We support how [host] Jeff Probst and the producers handled a very sensitive situation and marvel at the grace Zeke exhibited under extraordinary circumstances. We have also respect for how Jeff Varner has expressed remorse for his mistake, both in the episode and in his subsequent dialogue with the media," CBS stated, before adding, "In the end, we believe this episode, accompanied by Zeke's own remarkable writing and speaking on the subject, has provided an unexpected but important dialogue about acceptance and treating transgender people with respect."
Following CBS' statement, Nick Adams, director of GLAAD's transgender media program, issued a statement which read, "Zeke Smith, and transgender people like him, are not deceiving anyone by being their authentic selves, and it is dangerous and unacceptable to out a transgender person. It is heartening, however, to see the strong support for Zeke from the other people in his tribe." Nick added, "Moments like this prove that when people from all walks of life get to know a transgender person, they accept us for who we are."
In the previous episode, Jeff revealed Zeke's personal information in attempt to remain on the series. "There is deception here. Deceptions on levels Jeff that these guys don't even understand," Jeff said before looking at Zeke. "Why haven't you told anyone that you're transgender?"
After the rest of the cast members blasted him over his action, Jeff was voted off the island. Jeff was seen approached Zeke and hugged him, expressing his guilt after outing him. Zeke opened up to PEOPLE that even it had been months after the filming, he still struggled "with forgiving him every day."
Zeke is a two-time contestant on the series. He previously competed in the "Millenials vs. Gen-X" installment, before returning for the current "Game Changer". "Survivor: Game Changer" airs Wednesdays at 8 P.M. on CBS.