Jeff Varner played dirty in an effort to win "Survivor" this season, and it came back to bite him in the tribal council — when he outed fellow player Zeke Smith as transgender to show "deceit" on Zeke's part, he was unanimously voted off the island on Wednesday's episode of the long-running hit.
Now, Varner is enduring some real-life fall-out from what he has called his "awful, horrible mistake," losing his new job with Allen Tate Realtors.
People magazine reports Varner was booted from his position after posting his first listing with the company just over a week ago, because his employers feel he is "in the middle of a news story that we don't want anything to do with."
Varner, who is gay, told "EW Morning Live" radio show Thursday, "I have been through I don’t know how much therapy. With the show’s therapist, with a local therapist. I have met with and spoken to several LGBT organizations — I’ve joined the board of a couple of them... this has changed me drastically."
He went on to say of Smith, "This is about Zeke. I can only profusely apologize. I have apologized to him — we’ve spoken several times on the phone. He continually forgives me. I am amazed and moved at his ability to do that. I know that forgiveness is difficult. I know that he has a lot of people in his ear. I know that watching this last night was traumatic not only for me and my family — I can only imagine what this was like for him and his friends and everybody who loves him.”
Smith has said he wishes Varner well — from afar. Though the two hugged on the episode, with Smith telling Varner everything would be okay, he has since reassessed the gut-wrenching moment and been more critical of Varner's attack. Of this, Varner told the radio show, "We say things we don’t mean. And he’s calling me a bigot and full of hate and all kinds of stuff. I forgive him for that. I give him every inch of every room to feel and experience what he’s feeling. If he wants to take swings at me, I’m the one to hand him the bat. I deserve it. I deserve every bit of it. No one is going to beat me up worse than I have myself.”
Smith told People transgender people are not inherently deceptive, and explained the only reason he did not lead with the news that he is trans is that he wanted to be judged for his performance, not his gender identity. "I’m not ashamed of being trans, but I didn’t want that to be my story. I just wanted to go out on an adventure and play a great game. I just wanted to be known for my game.”