'Survivor' contestant who outed transgender player is fired from job

Jeff Varner was fired after he outed Zeke Smith.

ByABC News
April 17, 2017, 10:58 AM

— -- Jeff Varner, who outed his fellow contestant Zeke Smith during an emotional tribal council on "Survivor: Game Changers" last week, was fired from his job at the Allen Tate real estate company in North Carolina.

Varner, a former news anchor, told "Entertainment Tonight" online that he was let go last Thursday in an "ugly, knee-jerk reaction kind of way."

"As I'm spending hours doing press [on Thursday], I discover I can't access my email. Then the MLS [multiple listing service] association emails to say, 'You've been terminated.' I didn't even find out from my company," he said. "Suddenly my real estate license was inactive and my current clients [were] left in the dark. It took hours after my press junket to get anyone with the company on the phone to tell me personally ... It was an ugly day. My former boss told me that I was in a news story they wanted nothing to with."

In a statement to ABC News, Pat Riley, Allen Tate's president and CEO, wrote, "The Allen Tate companies were built on core values of honesty, integrity and respect. Those fundamental beliefs led us to end our relationship with Mr. Varner, a real estate agent who had become affiliated with our firm just 17 days earlier."

The statement added, "To be clear, at no time before the airing of the 'Survivor' episode on Wednesday evening was our management aware of his actions on that episode. We make all decisions such as this one with careful consideration of our clients, employees and our agents."

Varner told "ET" that he had warned the company there would be headlines "but apparently not the people who needed to hear it."

On the episode — which was taped 10 months earlier — Varner, who is gay, asked Smith, "Why haven't you told anyone you're transgender?"

When other contestants reacted with outrage, Varner defended his actions by saying Smith was being deceptive during the game.

Smith responded by saying, "I wanted to be Zeke the 'Survivor' player" and not "the trans 'Survivor' player."

In the end, Varner apologized but was voted off anyway. He apologized again on Twitter after the episode aired.

Varner told "ET" that he had not intended to out Smith and has been receiving therapy for the last 10 months to deal with the "traumatic" situation.

Although it has cost him his job, Varner said he was relieved "that this is finally out there."

In a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, Smith wrote that he is not "wild" about people knowing that he is trans but is proud of the way he handled his response on the show.

He also wrote that he accepted Varner's apology but was still struggling to forgive him.

"While I can reconcile the personal slight of him outing me, I continue to be troubled by his willingness to deploy such a dangerous stereotype on a global platform," Smith wrote.