As conservative fans mourned the death of far-right radio host Rush Limbaugh, many on social media pointed to Limbaugh’s history of making sexist, homophobic, and bigoted remarks.
Author Jessica Valenti, for example, posted a message on Twitter stating that Limbaugh once had a segment on his show called “AIDS Update” where he would celebrate the AIDS-related deaths of gay and bi men.
“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,” Valenti tweeted.
Snopes.com confirmed the authenticity of the claims, noting that while they could not uncover any audio of these segments, they did find a few contemporaneous news articles and comments from Limbaugh confirming the contents of these controversial segments.
Iowa’s Cedar Gazette reported in 1990 that Limbaugh’s “AIDS Update,” a recurring segment in which he made jokes about a disease that had killed more than 100,000 people in the United States the previous decade, started by playing songs such 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.”
According to The New York Times, the “Aids Update” segment was short-lived and ended after a few weeks.
Limbaugh would call the segment one of “most regretful things I’ve ever done” because it was “making fun of people who were dying long, painful and excruciating deaths.”
“While Limbaugh would come to regret the segment, that didn’t stop him from airing other homophobic content,” Snopes notes. “Limbaugh, for instance, had another segment that used former Congressman Barney Frank, a prominent gay politician, as fodder. That segment featured the song ‘My Boy Lollipop’ as slurping sounds played in the background. Limbaugh also spread the unfounded claim that gay men practiced ‘gerbilling’ (you can read more about the unfounded urban legend here) and once said, according to James Retter’s book ‘The Anatomy of a Scandal,’ that gay men ‘deserved their fate.'”
In 1989, Limbaugh 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.”
Limbaugh would later refer to HIV/AIDS as “the only federally-protected virus.” He denounced spending money on “education, and condoms, and cucumbers and all that” because there was no “evidence that [HIV] was spreading to the heterosexual community, not sexually anyway.”