I have been attacked by Rush Limbaugh on the air, an experience somewhat akin to being gummed by a newt. It doesn't actually hurt, but it leaves you with slimy stuff on your ankle.
However, every once in a while Limbaugh digs deep and comes up something really, really terrible. Today, for example, he said this:
LIMBAUGH: The 1980s were just a vitrolic as they were today. Reagan was called a Nazi just like Bush was. Nothing's different. It was -- folks, if you weren't alive then or if you weren't old enough to be paying attention, do not doubt me. The hatred for Ronald Reagan was universal in the Democrat Party and throughout the media.
These people blamed AIDS on Reagan. Sound familar? They blamed homelessness on Reagan -- you know why they blamed AIDS on Reagan? Because he didn't care. Because he never delivered a speech about it. And because of that, AIDS was spread. They actually wanted us to believe that Reagan had the disease, was sneaking into gay people's houses at night, and impregnating them with the disease and running out. And when we left their houses he went over to Grant Park, or wherever it was, Lafayette Park and stole the pork and beans of the homeless and took them back to the White House and fixed them up and at them. That's that kind of stuff they were saying about Reagan. [emphasis added]
That's right, Democrats and the media “wanted us to believe Reagan had [AIDS], was sneaking into gay people's houses at night, impregnating them with the disease, and running out.” Just take a minute to let that sink in.
First of all, lots of people and groups, including the then-director of San Francisco's Department of Health Mervyn Silverman, Reagan's biographer Lou Cannon, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), then-Senator Lowell Weicker (R-CT), and the National Academy of Sciences, have criticized Reagan's response to the emerging AIDS epidemic. Reagan refused to mention the disease for seven years -- while thousands of people were dying -- instead of educating the public about the disease. After finally mentioning the disease in 1987, the President reportedly proposed cutting funding to the National Institutes of Health program that was heading AIDS research. Reagan's Surgeon General C. Everett Koop was even initially prevented prevented from addressing the crisis publically and reportedly stated that he was personally cut out of all AIDS discussions in the White House for the first five years of Reagan's presidency because the president's advisers felt that the AIDS victims “are only getting what they justly deserve.”
So yes, the government failed to educate the public about a deadly contageous disease for what Reagan administration officials have said were political reasons, and people placed the blame for that failure at the feet of the president. Limbaugh clearly feels that was undeserved, but instead of having a rational discussion about that, he decided to say something terrible.
And that's pretty much been a theme for Limbaugh. For example, in 2004 -- also while complaing Reagan was unfairly attacked for failing to act on the AIDS epidemic -- Limbaugh said:
LIMBAUGH: And remember, back then in the '80s, one of the accompanying -- there -- there -- there -- there was a lot of fear-mongering going on around -- about AIDS, as a lot of people were scared about it. And one of the things that -- that the -- the AIDS activists said regularly back then was, oh, this is only a matter of time before it spreads to the heterosexual community. It's only a matter of time.
And they used that as -- as one of the weapons to try to get people like Reagan to start talking about it from their standpoint. And of course it -- it hasn't. It -- it didn't, and it hasn't, other than in Africa, and in Africa it is -- it is being spread not just by -- it -- it -- it's promiscuity that -- that -- that spreads this, if you want to know the truth. It's promiscuity.
But it -- it hasn't made that jump to the heterosexual community. [emphasis added]
Actually, by 2002, 75 percent of the women and 15 percent of the men who contracted AIDS were infected through heterosexual sex.
Additionally, in the late 1980's Limbaugh ran a segment for a month called “AIDS update.” The segment was often introduced by Dionne Warwick's “I'll Never Love This Way Again.” Limbaugh later apologized for the segment, saying that the bit “missed the mark totally and ended up being very insensitive to people who were dying. That was not the purpose of it, and I stopped it after a month.”
And the list goes on. Limbaugh's latest screed only served as a reminder that whether or not our national discourse was more civil in the 1980s, his rhetoric was just as hateful then as it is now.