Conservative media figure Rush Limbaugh used his long-running radio show to mock gay men who were dying from AIDS-related complications.
The far-right icon and close Donald Trump ally died yesterday, aged 70, of lung cancer, after a career spent making anti-LGBTQ comments, including insulting then-presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg for his sexuality, blaming incest on marriage equality, making sexual assault jokes about gay men, and telling Republicans to disown Caitlyn Jenner after she came out as transgender.
But one of Limbaugh’s most homophobic actions was so egregious that even Limbaugh himself later said he regretted it: mocking gay men who were dying from AIDS.
At the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, The Rush Limbaugh Show featured an “AIDS Update” in which Limbaugh joked about an epidemic that claimed more than 100,000 lives between 1981 and 1990. Specifically, Limbaugh targeted gay men who had died.
In addition to joking about their deaths, Limbaugh reportedly played songs during the segment including, “Kiss Him Goodbye,” “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” and “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.”
Snopes.com uncovered an interview in the Cedar Gazette from 1990 in which Limbaugh said the segment was “politically oriented and based upon my reaction to what I consider to be extremism in the political mainstream by a group of people.”
Per the Cedar Gazette, “[Limbaugh] said his target is not AIDS victims but militant homosexuals who blame church and government officials for the epidemic.”
“The AIDS update is meant to offend them,” Limbaugh said. “Damn right.”
According to a 1998 Los Angeles Times article it was a “popular” segment, but it also created outrage among AIDS activists — something not helped by Limbaugh reportedly saying, “Gays deserved their fate.”
The New York Times reported in 1990 that Limbaugh himself pulled the plug on the segment, citing the “harassment” he received and calling it “the single most regretful thing I’ve ever done.”
“It ended up making fun of people who were dying long, painful and excruciating deaths, when they were not the target,” he said. “It was a totally irresponsible thing to do.”
Rush Limbaugh had a segment called "AIDS update" set to music where he mocked dying gay people so I don't really want hear about 'speaking ill of the dead' today
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) February 17, 2021
But while Limbaugh ended his “AIDS Update” segment, he made multiple other anti-gay references to the epidemic, including in 1989 saying that one of the best ways to prevent AIDS was “do not ask another man to bend over and make love at the exit point. That’s what you don’t do.”
He also advocated against federal resources to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic, saying there was no “evidence that [HIV] was spreading to the heterosexual community, not sexually anyway.”
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