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Survivor’s Jeff Varner Says Being Fired From His Job for Outing Zeke Smith Was an ‘Ugly, Knee-Jerk Reaction’

Survivor castaway Jeff Varner opened up in a new interview about being fired from his job as a real estate agent after outing fellow contestant Zeke Smith as transgender.

As previously reported, the three-time Survivor player, 51, was let go from his job at Allen Tate Real Estate in North Carolina on Thursday, April 13, just one day after he revealed to millions of viewers on the CBS reality series that Smith, 28, is transgender.

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Varner spoke to Entertainment Tonight about losing his job, saying that he was fired in “what I felt was an ugly, knee-jerk reaction kind of way.” He claimed his employer didn’t give him the opportunity to explain the controversial decision that ultimately led to his firing.

“I wasn’t even given the chance to explain or right the wrong,” he told the outlet. “In the real estate world, buyers and sellers want to know they’re signing up with a company that won’t dump them or turn their backs on them in time of trial. So I’m talking to several firms now that I know will care about and believe in their employees. I have had several reach out [and] I’m confident I’ll find a better home.”

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The former news anchor told ET that he found out he was terminated from his job via email while doing press for Survivor on Thursday. “Suddenly my real estate license was inactive and my current clients [were] left in the dark,” he said. “It took hours after my press junket to get anyone with the company on the phone to tell me personally, and even longer to calm my clients, all of whom, by the way, are coming with me to my new firm.”

Varner added, “It was an ugly day. My former boss told me that I was in a news story they wanted nothing to do with. … I was devastated.”

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In an interview with Us Weekly on Thursday, the real estate agent, who is gay, revealed that he has been in therapy since the incident, which was filmed nearly one year ago. “I firmly believe outing is assault,” he said. “It robs them of their safety and their protection. I’m devastated I’m the one who did that.”

Smith, for his part, penned a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, in which he wrote that he has struggled to forgive Varner for his actions.

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