NEW YORK — It was an apology that managed to trigger even more anger.
Kevin Spacey’s statement of regret after being accused of trying to seduce former child actor Anthony Rapp has kicked up a backlash when the two-time Oscar winner then chose to come out of the closet, prompting many to question the timing and accusing the actor of trying to change the subject.
“Kevin Spacey really tried to throw the entire LGBT community under a bus and call it solidarity in an effort to mask his personal failings,” wrote civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson on Twitter.
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the gay rights group GLAAD, said in a statement that the story was really about unwanted sexual advances on Rapp and not Spacey’s sexuality. “Coming out stories should not be used to deflect from allegations of sexual assault,” she said.
The controversy began when Rapp told BuzzFeed News that he was attending a party at Spacey’s apartment in 1986 when an inebriated 26-year-old Spacey picked him up, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top of him. Rapp, then 14, was able to get away without any physical harm.
Spacey responded on Twitter by saying he doesn’t remember the alleged encounter but if he acted the way Rapp alleges, “I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.”
The “House of Cards” actor then said Rapp’s story “encouraged” him to address long-simmering rumors about his sexuality. He wrote that he’s had romantic relationships with both men and women in the past but is now living “as a gay man” and wanted to be honest so he could examine “my own behavior.” Requests for comment went unanswered Monday.
The two-paragraph statement — an apology in the first for a 31-year-old alleged assault and a self-outing in the second — struck many as an odd time for Spacey to address his sexuality. Worse, he seemed to make a connection between being gay and sexual abuse of minors.
“You do not get to ‘choose’ to hide under the rainbow!” comedian Wanda Sykes, outspoken member of the LGBT community, wrote on Twitter. Comedian Billy Eichner also criticized the move: “Kevin Spacey has just invented something that has never existed before: a bad time to come out.”
Rapp’s allegations come a few weeks after dozens of women came forward to accuse movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault, triggering similar accusations across workplaces. In fact, Rapp cited the many Weinstein accusers for the reason he recounted his encounter with Spacey.
“I came forward with my story, standing on the shoulders of the many courageous women and men who have been speaking out to shine a light and hopefully make a difference, as they have done for me,” he wrote on Twitter. Rapp, who starred on Broadway in “Rent,” currently stars in “Star Trek: Discovery.”
Many Hollywood figures came to Rapp’s side, including fellow “Discovery” co-star Wilson Cruz and Rose McGowan, one of the leading voices against sexual harassment in Hollywood, who said of Spacey: “It’s your turn to cry.”
Former “House of Cards” showrunner Beau Willimon, who also serves as the president of the Writers Guild of America, East, called Rapp’s story “deeply troubling.”
In a statement obtained by The Associated Press, Willmon said: “During the time I worked with Kevin Spacey on ‘House of Cards,’ I neither witnessed nor was aware of any inappropriate behavior on set or off. That said, I take reports of such behavior seriously and this is no exception. I feel for Mr. Rapp and I support his courage.”