US

Rush Limbaugh mocked the deaths of AIDS victims to disco music in despicable radio segment

Josh Milton February 18, 2021
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Rush Limbaugh speaks into a microphone

Radio talk show host and conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Rush Limbaugh included an “AIDS Updates” segment on his radio show in the 1990s, just one of the many ways he trafficked in cruelty against LGBT+ people.

On Wednesday (17 February), Rush Limbaugh’s wife Kathryn announced that the 70-year-old had passed away from complications of lung cancer.

As news of his death shuddered online, many reflected on what the man behind the microphone meant to them.

To former US president Donald Trump, he was a “legend” with “tremendous insight”. But to LGBT+ people, the host of The Rush Limbaugh Show was a man who, to the sounds of horns, bells and disco tunes, mocked the deaths of AIDS victims.

Rush Limbaugh had an AIDS Update mocked queer people’s deaths.

As thousands of queer Americans died of AIDS in 1990, Rush Limbaugh was in the early days of his career.

Eager to court what would become his vastly right-wing, religious and rowdy audience, Limbaugh decided the AIDS crisis was fertile ground for a wannabe rabble-rouser such as himself.

So he started his “AIDS Update”, a regular segment on his syndicated radio show where he mocked those who died of what he called “the Rock Hudson disease”, following the actor’s high-profile death.

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh at his studio at WABC Radio in New York City on December 14, 1988. (Bruce Gilbert, Jr./Newsday RM via Getty Images)

To the sound of “Back in the Saddle Again”, “Kiss Him Goodbye” and “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places”, he read aloud the names of the dead, often introducing the segment with  Dionne Warwick‘s “I’ll Never Love This Way Again”.

He came to apologise for the bit after cutting it from his show after two weeks, according to The New York Times.

“It’s the single most regretful thing I’ve ever done,” he said in late 1990, “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.”

Rush Limbaugh’s ‘AIDS Update’ ran for weeks. But his homophobia lasted for decades.

In Rush Limbaugh’s long career in broadcasting, his homophobic barbs were beamed out to more than 650 stations.

And there were many.

He rallied against marriage equality, compared gay people to “paedophiles“, called being trans a “psychological disorder” and defended Ronald Reagan’s response to the AIDS epidemic, among many other belittling and blistering comments.

LGBT+ folk were treated by Limbaugh as a rogues’ gallery, and in 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg quickly became his new focus.

The hardcore Trump supporter relentlessly hit out against the then-small-town mayor, now transport secretary, claiming that Buttigieg kissing his husband Chasten would cause “problems” for parents.

He later suggested that Buttigieg kissing his husband would look bad next to “Mr Man Donald Trump”, suggesting that being queer would diminish the presidential candidate.

Related topics: AIDS, aids epidemic, Dionne Warwick, Radio, rush limbaugh, US

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