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Jeff Varner's agency releases statement, defends decision to fire 'Survivor' castaway after outing Zeke Smith


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 04/17/2017 

Jeff Varner was seemingly floored when he got fired from his job last week due to public backlash from his Survivor scandal with transgender castaway Zeke Smith, but the real estate agency he previously worked for is standing by its decision.

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Varner, a 51-year-old former news anchor for CBS and Fox affiliates from North Carolina, was fired on Thursday, April 13 from his job as an agent for Allen Tate Real Estate in Greensboro, NC.

"The Allen Tate Companies were built on core values of honesty, integrity and respect," Company CEO Pat Riley said in a statement to Entertainment Tonight.

"Those fundamental beliefs led us to end our relationship with Mr. Varner, a real estate agent who had become affiliated with our firm just 17 days earlier."

Following his termination, a "devastated" Varner told ET that he was let go from the agency via email in "what I felt was an ugly, knee-jerk reaction kind of way."

The three-time Survivor castaway also claimed he had warned Allen Tate Real Estate that negative headlines might surface after the April 12 episode aired, however, he apparently didn't give a heads-up to "the people who needed to hear it."

Riley suggested Varner failed to heed a warning of any kind, saying in his statement, "To be clear, at no time before the airing of the Survivor episode on Wednesday evening was our management aware of his actions on that episode. We make all decisions such as this one with careful consideration of our clients, employees and our agents."

But Varner argued he "wasn't even given the chance to explain" the situation to the company he was working for, nor did he have an opportunity to "right the wrong."

"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," Varner explained. "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."

Varner, who reportedly began working as a real estate agent in December 2016, is no longer listed on Allen Tate company websites. He insisted to ET that his clients are going with him to his new firm.

On last week's Survivor: Game Changers episode, Varner announced at Tribal Council there was "deception on many levels" happening within the tribe, and then mentioned Smith's undisclosed transgender identity as an alleged example. Knowing he was the tribe's target, Varner was trying to throw a couple of his fellow castaways under the bus in order to save himself.

"Not only was Smith visibly shocked and shaken by his former friend's disclosure, he also recently told People that he continues to be "troubled by [Varner]'s willingness to deploy such a dangerous stereotype on a global platform," referring to Varner's suggestion Smith was deceitful for not being open about his female to male gender change.

After outing Smith on national television, Varner appeared to try to explain that he had assumed -- incorrectly -- that Smith had played his prior Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X season as openly transgender and was just keeping it from his fellow Survivor: Game Changers castaways.

However, none of the Game Changers contestants were able to watch Smith's first Survivor season before Game Changers was filmed because the two editions were taped back-to-back in the Mamanuca Islands of Fiji in Spring 2016, and Smith's Millennials vs. Gen X season did not premiere on CBS until September 2016.

To read what Varner told Reality TV World about outing Smith in an exclusive interview after his Survivor: Game Changers elimination, click here.


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