RIP Rush? A Look Back at His Mocking AIDS Victims (and Other Anti-LGBTQ Outrages)

Friday February 19, 2021
Originally published on February 18, 2021

It isn't surprising to see how conservative pundits and politicians are praising Rush Limbaugh, as has his long career of racist and homophobic comments are being remembered by others in the media. It is, though, surprising to revisit the vitriol in Limbaugh's words, especially towards the LGBTQ community. Specifically when in the early 1990s he introduced a segment on his daily radio broadcast where he offered an "AIDS update" in which he would name victims against a soundtrack of such pop songs as "Back in the Saddle Again," "Kiss Him Goodbye," "I Know I'll Never Love This Way Again," and "Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places."


The investigative website Snopes confirmed the segment did exist in 1990 for a short time, citing a report from the Iowa Cedar Gazette. Asked by the paper if he thought such a segment was appropriate, Limbaugh said:

"The AIDS update is, as is everything I do, politically oriented and based upon my reaction to what I consider to be extremism in the political mainstream by a group of people," Limbaugh reportedly told the newspaper. "He said his target is not AIDS victims but militant homosexuals who blame church and government officials for the epidemic, a practice he finds outrageous. It is a behaviorally spread disease and they attempt to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the actions they've taken (then) suggest people who disagree with them get banned from television like Andy Rooney.

"So The AIDS update is meant to offend them. Damn right," Limbaugh concluded.

But even Limbaugh saw such a segment was too mean-spirited even for him and he discontinued it after a couple of weeks. In 1990, he spoke with the New York Times, which wrote "he was tired of the 'harassment' and also feeling a greater responsibility as his audience grows. He killed a running bit on AIDS after two weeks. 'It's the single most regretful thing I've ever done,' he says, 'because it ended up making fun of people who were dying long, painful and excruciating deaths, when they were not the target. It was a totally irresponsible thing to do.'"

That didn't keep Limbaugh from expressing more homophobic views over the year, even as recently as February 2020 when he chided current Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg for kissing his husband Chasen after a Democratic debate.

"A gay guy, 37 years old, loves kissing his husband on debate stages. Can you see Trump have fun with that?" he said.

MediaMatters.com came up with numerous instances of Limbaugh's homophobic comments. In 1989, he said that the best way to stop HIV was "do not ask another man to bend over and make love at the exit point. That's what you don't do." He went on to denounce federal funding for AIDS because there was no "evidence that [HIV] was spreading to the heterosexual community, not sexually anyway."

By the year 2000, same-sex marriage became his new target.

"They seek to impose their perverted views, their depraved views on family and marriage," he said, talking about marriage equality activists in 2010. "Marriage is a union of a man and a woman... This is about destroying an institution." Throughout the debate, he claimed that straight people were being victimized. "They're under assault. You say, 'Heterosexuality may be 95, 98 percent of the population.' They're under assault by the two to five percent that are homosexual." in 2013 he equated homosexuality with pedophilia, then two years later asked, "This business of who you love, where does that stop," dogs, dolphins?"

When he addressed trans issues in 2015, he was equally callous, saying that gender-affirming health care is "treating mental illness with mental illness." The next year he said trans soldiers were allowed in the military under an "add-a-dick-to-me procedure." And in 2016 he used an anti-trans slur when telling Republicans they should not "provide a comforting atmosphere for the tranny community and the gay community."

Limbaugh also directly attacked out ex-Congressman Barney Frank over the years, once saying, "Isn't it an established fact that Barney Frank himself spends most of his time living around Uranus?"

After his death, the Twittersphere commented on his legacy: