That legendary battle. That’s one interesting thing of coming back. I went through a lot of things, and now I get to do it in a different climate. When I analyze the Queer Nation battle now, I think about why it bothered me so much. It’s because I knew who I was. I knew a lot of my friends didn’t come to my defense when everyone was in the closet. I can give you 20 guests on my show in a month [who were gay], but they weren’t talking about it. Luther Vandross ain’t talking about it. He can’t at that time. Louie Anderson can’t then. Ellen can’t then. Rosie can’t then. They couldn’t even say, “Leave [Arsenio] alone!” Only that writer in New York, Harvey Fierstein [repeats Fierstein’s name in an incredible impersonation], was sitting on my couch and talking about issues. I had to let the world be what it is and catch up to the moment, but I knew what I was doing.”
— Comic Arsenio Hall, discussing his notorious argument in 1991 with members of activist group Queer Nation, who wondered why he didn’t invite gay guests on his talk show, in a new interview with The Backlot‘s Louis Virtel
Watch the argument below.