Survivor contestant Jeff Varner has been fired from his real-life job as a real estate agent after outing a fellow contestant as transgender during an episode of the hit reality TV show this month.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Varner confirmed he had been fired from his job Thursday at Allen Tate Real Estate in North Carolina, where he had worked before shooting that fateful episode of Survivor: Game Changers.
“I was devastated,” Varner told ET. “[I warned the company that headlines might be coming], but apparently not the people who needed to hear it.”
During the tribal council portion of the April 12 episode, Varner turned desperate as it became apparent he would be voted off the island.
“There is deception here,” he told show host Jeff Probst. “Deceptions on levels, Jeff, that these guys don’t even understand.”
Then he turned to fellow contestant Zeke Smith and suddenly asked: “Why haven’t you told anyone that you’re transgender?”
Varner was voted off the island anyway (for the first time ever, no official vote was taken; Probst just informally confirmed with the other contestants) and the moment caused a firestorm on social media, with the show’s fans berating him for outing a transgender man against his will.
The three-time contestant quickly issued a statement apologizing to Smith and fans for “recklessly” revealing something he “mistakenly believed everyone already knew.”
However, that apparently wasn’t enough for his employers in North Carolina.
“As I’m spending hours doing press [on Thursday], I discover I can’t access my email. Then the MLS association emails to say, ‘You’ve been terminated.’ I didn’t even find out from my company,” Varner told ET. “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, and even longer to calm my clients, all of whom, by the way, are coming with me to my new firm.”
“I wasn’t even given the chance to explain or right the wrong,” he added.
Varner also revealed he had been seeing a therapist to come to terms with what happened in the now-famous tribal council segment, which was filmed in July of last year but only aired this month.
“I knew that it would be emotional,” he said. “I cried a lot. I sat numb a lot. There was relief that this is finally out there.”
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum