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OTRC: Anderson Cooper comes out as gay - and explains why now (Poll)

Anderson Cooper has come out of the closet publicly as a gay man, following years of rumors, and says that he "couldn't be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud."

The popular 45-year-old veteran news reporter, who hosts the CNN show "Anderson Cooper 360" and his own syndicated talk series, "Anderson," revealed the news in a letter to The Daily Beast writer Andrew Sullivan, who is openly gay. It was posted on the outlet's website on Monday, July 2.

Sullivan had asked him for his reaction to an Entertainment Weekly cover story about gay celebrities. Cooper told him that he had thought about the issue for years.

The news personality, who had never denied or confirmed his sexual orientation in the past, said in his letter that he wanted to maintain "some level of privacy" for personal and for professional reasons, citing his reporting assignments in war zones.

"Recently, however, I've begun to consider whether the unintended outcomes of maintaining my privacy outweigh personal and professional principle," he said. "It's become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something - something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true."

Cooper says he now thinks "visibility is important, more important than preserving my reporter's shield of privacy."

His reveal comes months after Barack Obama told ABC's "Good Morning America" that he thinks "same sex couples should be able to get married," marking the first time a U.S. president has supported such a position. He had declared in 2004 that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman.

In 2010, Obama took part in the national celebrity-backed "It Gets Better" campaign," sponsored by LGBT teen suicide prevention organization The Trevor Project and launched after a series of suicides by gay youths who had been bullied. Cooper's CNN show had won a GLAAD award for its coverage of the tragedies and in May of this year, he competed on "Jeopardy!" and won $50,000 for The Trevor Project.

"I've also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible," Cooper wrote. "There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand."

"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," he said.

Cooper's announcement also comes days after it was revealed that CNN's ratings during its second quarter of 2012 were the lowest earned by the cable network since 1991. Ratings for its primetime lineup, which includes "Anderson Cooper 360," dropped 41 percent over the past year to some 129,000 viewers among the coveted demographic of people aged 25 to 54, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Rumors about Cooper's sexual orientation have been published for several years by outlets such as the tabloid The New York Post and the popular news blog Gawker, whose profile of him states: "Cooper is gay and while that's no secret in Chelsea or media circles, he has never publicly commented on his sexual orientation."

Cooper wrote in his letter to The Daily Beast that he had occasionally been "directly asked 'the gay question' in the past and that he had always been "very open and honest" about the issue with his friends, family and colleagues.

In October 2010, Cooper made headlines when he slammed a joke seen in a trailer for the comedy film "The Dilemma," which saw Vince Vaughn use the word "gay" in a derogatory manner. Weeks later, after gay rights group GLAAD issued its own condemnation, Universal Pictures issued a new trailer that did not contain the controversial scene.

"I just find those words, those terms, we've got to do something to make those words unacceptable cause those words are hurting kids, Cooper had at the time told Ellen DeGeneres, who famously came out of the closet in 1997, on her syndicated talk show. "I think we need to really focus on what language we're using and how we're treating these kids."

In April of this year, Out magazine named Cooper as No. 6 on its "Power List" of "exemplary individuals" who "manage to influence the way others live - either through their public personas, politics, or wealth -- and affect cultural and social attitudes." DeGeneres placed second, after Apple CEO Tim Cook.

This was not the first time he has made the list - Cooper and actress Jodie Foster were named in Out magazine's 2007 power list and in an accompanying cover story titled "The Glass Closet: Why The Stars Won't Come Out and Play."

Some readers this year were still confused by his inclusion in the annual roster. One asked in an online comment: "So then, does this mean he really is gay? I thought that people just said that after the whole RidicuList giggling fit."

In August 2011, Cooper burst into giggles uncontrollably on his CNN show while discussing an incident in which French actor Gerard Depardieu urinated into a bottle while sitting in a cabin of a plane. The video of Cooper's reaction became a viral hit.

GLAAD, which awarded Cooper the 2012 GLAAD Media Award this year for Outstanding TV Journalism ? Newsmagazine and several other prizes through the years for his show's segments about LGBT issues, on Monday issued a statement praising the reporter.

"Even prior to coming out publically, Anderson's terrific work has raised awareness of inequalities facing LGBT people," GLAAD president, Herndon Graddick, said in post on the organization's website. "I'm proud to call him my friend. He's a role model to millions and now will inspire countless others."

Many celebrities also posted supportive messages to Cooper on Monday.

"I'm proud of you, @AndersonCooper," DeGeneres said on Twitter.

Kelly Ripa, who has featured Cooper as a co-host on her ABC morning show "LIVE! with Kelly!" Tweeted: "So proud of you @andersoncooper. Always have been, always will be."

Others joked about the issue.

"Dear Anderson Cooper - we already knew! signed, The World," read a message on the Twitter page of popular Sirius XM satellite radio program "The Opie & Anthony Show."

"Anderson Cooper announcing he is straight would have been a bigger story. #CNN," comedian and former "Frank TV" host Frank Caliendo Tweeted.

Pictured above: Anderson Cooper attends the Diane von Furstenberg show during Fashion Week in New York on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012.

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