Reporter Who Covered Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico Comes Out

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CBS News reporter David Begnaud reports from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. commonwealth. He came out publicly as gay on June 24, 2018, when he tweeted a picture of him with his partner. (Photo courtesy of CBS News)

(WB) A CBS News reporter who has received widespread praise for his extensive coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico came out publicly on Sunday.

David Begnaud tweeted a picture of him at a dinner with his partner, Jeremy, and wrote, “reporting the truth includes my own.” The tweet also includes the hashtag “happy Pride.”

 

“It just felt right,” Begnaud told the Washington Blade on Monday during a telephone interview from South Texas where he is covering the impact of President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that includes the continued separation of immigrant children from their parents. “I was inspired by what I was seeing in New York City for the Pride celebration.”

Begnaud and his partner, who lives in Los Angeles, have been together for nearly seven years.

Begnaud, a Louisiana native who is currently based in Dallas, told the Blade he came out to his family a decade ago. Begnaud added “it just felt right” to share the picture of him and his partner on his Twitter page.

“It was on my heart,” said Begnaud. “Jeremy, my partner, is the salt of the earth.”

Begnaud told the Blade his sexual orientation “is something that is as old as I am.”

“It’s also not a banner headline for me,” he added. “It’s who I am. It’s who I love.”

 

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Workers begin to install a roof onto a hurricane-damaged house in the Candelero Arriba neighborhood of Humacao, Puerto Rico, on May 26, 2018. Some of the neighborhood’s residents had no electricity more than eight months after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. commonwealth. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers).

 

Begnaud has ‘an obligation’ to Puerto Ricans

Begnaud was in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, when Maria made landfall on the island’s southeast coast with winds of 155 mph. He also covered the hurricane’s immediate aftermath; which included a lack of electricity, running water and cell phone service across the island and a shortage of food and other basic supplies.

Begnaud interviewed Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruzand other officials in the U.S. commonwealth about Maria, its impact and the status of the relief effort. Begnaud also helped Puerto Ricans contact their relatives in the mainland U.S. after Maria.

The hurricane’s official death toll remains 64, but it is likely much higher.

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of Colorado School of Medicine and other institutions have concluded Maria may have killed upwards of 4,645 people. Other estimates place the death toll at around 1,000.

Residents of the Candelero Arriba neighborhood of Humacao, a city on Puerto Rico’s southeast coast, had no electricity last month when the Blade was in the area last month.Begnaud on Monday noted residents of Utuado, a town that is located in the U.S. commonwealth’s mountainous interior, have not had electricity for more than nine months.

Begnaud on June 23 tweeted 2,669 “customers still do not have power” in Puerto Rico and “it may be another months (sic) before they get it.”

He retweeted an article from El Nuevo Día, a Puerto Rican newspaper, on Monday that says “at least 248 critical facilities” across the island are running on generators because they still do not have electricity. Begnaud in his tweet noted it costs $2.1 million a day to keep them running.

Begnaud told the Blade he has “an obligation to not let people forget about Puerto Ricans, our fellow Americans” even as he “moves on to other stories.”

 

‘A piece of my heart will always remain in Puerto Rico’

The organizers of New York’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade earlier this month honored Begnaud. He was unable to attend Los Angeles Pride with his partner because the parade took place on the same day.

“A piece of my heart will always remain in Puerto Rico,” Begnaud told the Blade. “The love they have shown towards me has just humbled me.”

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CBS News reporter David Begnaud, center, interviews Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. commonwealth. (Photo courtesy of CBS News).

 

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTI advocacy group, on Sunday applauded Begnaud.

“The award-winning journalist who has won the hearts of Puerto Ricans — because he has made Puerto Rico one of his priorities — today during this month of the LGBTT fight shared who has won his heart,” tweeted Serrano. “Congratulations David Begnaud.”

LGBT Puerto Rico, an LGBTI website on the island, in a tweet that congratulated Begnaud for coming out describes him as a “hero of Puerto Rico.”

Begnaud conceded to the Blade he felt “a little trepidation” about coming out publicly, in part, because of the teasing he said he suffered as a child. Begnaud said he was “overwhelmed” by the positive reaction he has received.

“I thought it was so profound,” he said.

Begnaud added he wants to “inspire other people to feel comfortable telling their story.”

“I want to encourage them by saying: It took me 24 years to get to the place where I was ready to tell my family and another decade before I was ready to do so publicly,” he said. “So, whenever you’re ready there’s a world of love waiting to embrace you.”


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