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Conservative talk host Dennis Prager claims unvaccinated treated worse than gay men during AIDS crisis

Talk radio host downplays societal response to the AIDS epidemic to argue that society currently treats unvaccinated people worse.

dennis prager, gay men, unvaccinated, anti-vaxxer, aids,
Dennis Prager – Photo: Gage Skidmore.

Dennis Prager, the conservative nationally syndicated talk show host, recently claimed that people who choose to remain unvaccinated for COVID-19 are being treated worse than gay men during the early years of the AIDS epidemic.

Prager, who appeared on Newsmax on Monday to rant about rising gas prices and attack the Biden administration’s plans to reduce reliance on fossil fuels in order to address climate change, segued into a harangue on the U.S. government being run based on “irrational fears,” such as the fear of extinction of the planet or the fear of contracting or spreading COVID-19.

With a straight face, and no sense of irony, Prager said those who refuse COVID-19 vaccinations are treated like the “pariahs of America, as I have not seen in my lifetime,” according to a clip obtained and posted to social media by Media Matters for America’s Jason Campbell.

“During the AIDS crisis, can you imagine if gay men and intravenous drug users — who were the vast majority of people with AIDS — had they been pariahs the way the non-vaccinated are? But it would have been inconceivable. And it should have been inconceivable. They should not have been made pariahs,” Prager said, before casting the unvaccinated as principled martyrs being victimized by a combination of government mandates and societal shunning by their neighbors.

But as any LGBTQ person who was alive at the height of the AIDS epidemic and isn’t a naked partisan can acknowledge, people with AIDS were in fact ostracized during the 1980s and 1990s.

Part of this was due to the fact that most Americans didn’t know how the deadly disease was spread, believing it to be transmitted through casual contact. Part of this was because victims’ lifestyles or personal habits, including drug use, homosexual behavior, or promiscuity, were seen as unpalatable and condemned.

As The Daily Beast wrote about Prager’s comments, “Prager, who would have been in his thirties during the height of the AIDS crisis, apparently went the length of the decade without witnessing the endemic fear, ostracizing, and mistreatment of AIDS sufferers by wider society.”

Following Prager’s comments, the term “AIDS” began trending on Twitter.

One Twitter user wrote: “A reminder that I’m from Kokomo, Indiana — the town that expelled Ryan White from public schools because he was HIV-positive, which he contracted through a blood transfusion. Gay men, drug users, and anyone with HIV/AIDS was a pariah.”

Gay journalist Michelangelo Signorile noted in a tweet that the conservative “intellectual” leader William F. Buckley Jr. suggested in his New York Times column (which, if read in the context of what we know about HIV today, could be mistaken for satire) that people with AIDS be tattooed on their upper forearm, “to protect common-needle users” and on the buttocks “to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals.”

Buckley even concluded by addressing critics who would accuse him of wanting to brand homosexuals and drug users with a “Scarlet Letter,” writing: “The Scarlet Letter was designed to stimulate public obloquy. The AIDS tattoo is designed for private protection. And the whole point of this is that we are not talking about a kidding matter. Our society is generally threatened, and in order to fight AIDS, we need the civil equivalent of universal military training.”

“People with AIDS weren’t just pariahs,” Signorile said, “conservative(s) like William F. Buckley Jr. wanted them tattooed. Everyone Prager looks up in to in conservative punditry thought they all deserved what they got — God’s wrath. That’s not an exaggeration.”

Nonbinary author D.E. Anderson tweeted: “Prager is playing dumb when he literally was part of the stigmatization of the queer community during the AIDS crisis. He knows what he’s doing and he’s deliberately lying.”

Prager has since doubled down on his remarks, claiming his comments are being unfairly distorted, according to Mediaite.

“On Twitter, I am being cursed and even wished death for having said on Newsmax: ‘During the AIDS crisis, can you imagine if gay men and intravenous drug users, who were the vast majority of the people with AIDS, had they been pariahs the way the non-vaccinated are'” Prager tweeted.

“But it would have been inconceivable. And it should have been inconceivable. They should not have been made pariahs. But this is kosher, this is okay.”

He continued: “I did not say gays were not pariahs during the AIDS crisis — period, end of sentence. I said they were not pariahs ‘like the unvaccinated are today.’ There’s a reason people use qualifiers. Dropping the part of a sentence that contains a qualifier completely and deliberately changes the meaning of what was said.”

See also: Pastor and right-wing radio host who mocked dead AIDS victims dies of COVID-19

Prager added: “Were there government mandates to fire every American with AIDS? Or fire every gay man? Did government edicts deprive AIDS patients of their incomes and pensions? Were gay policemen, nurses, and firefighters fired? Yet, that is what is happening to the unvaccinated today.

“Was there a ban on gay men (with or without AIDS) entering movie theaters, restaurants, hair salons, etc. unless they could prove they did not have AIDS? Such bans exist at this moment on the unvaccinated.”

See also:

Texas governor rails against controversial LGBTQ books, will push to ban “pornography” from school libraries

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