Arsenio Hall Explains His Notorious On-Air Argument With Gay Rights Activists

arsenio-hall-showThat 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.

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  • Tackle

    Arsenio handled the question and the situation quite well. And I’m wondering if they did pay a visit to Johnny Carson and the other talk show host and ask the same question of them. And twenty yrs later time proves Arsenio right. He had many gay and lesbian guest on his show..Celebrities just did not come out or talk about their sexuality like they do today. But even today many are still in the closet.

  • Homophile

    Im confused – is he out now? Or is he still on the DL with Eddie?

  • boring

    That’s the second time this week I’ve heard Louie Anderson get outed, by the way.

  • Mr. E. Jones

    It’s been rumnoured for years that this was set up between Arsenio, and Queer Nation. Arsenio wanted attention for himself, and Queer Nation wanted national exposure. Not a bad thing, but at least Arsenio isn’t trying to make QA out to be villains, like he did for decades.

  • Icebloo

    The first minute and a half of this clip I was on Arsenio’s side and I thought he handled the situation very nicely and professionally but then he went crazy and showed what an out of touch and arrogant asshole he is ! First of all don’t try telling me black people are discriminated against more than gay people. That doesn’t fly. There are NO laws in the USA where black people are discriminated against and have not been for decades.

    This has opened my eyes to how horrible and self absorbed Arsenio is – I will not be watching his show or supporting him in any way. He needs to grow up. I am glad his career dissolved around him.

  • Scribe38

    I think it is because of him being blackmailed by a guy years ago, came to a public head, saying that Louie asked him for sex. Louie paid for a while before reporting it. Louie blamed the incident on substance abuse. I think people just assume now that he is out.

  • Scribe38

    @Icebloo: why are you bringing race into this conversation? But since you are, I will take the opportunity to school you a little bit. Unless you are black and gay you have no way of knowing which brings the more grief into a person’s life, I do. When was the last time you were pulled over because you are gay, profiled, had a white woman lock her car door or grab her purse at the mere sight of you? At least once a week I have to deal with some shit like that. How about waiting for your whole life to be old enough to walk into a gay bar only to be treated like trash because of your race. When is the last time someone assumed you were a thug, criminal, or drug dealer just because God gave you an awesome tan. I’m not saying coming out as gay was easy or that we have the rights that we should. I have gotten into more than a few fist fights over being gay. The fights with people of my race being the most painful. But on the social ranking scale, gay-white-men have way more social clout than black men any day. You can hide your sexual orientation to get hired for jobs, not get pulled over, etc but there is no way for me to hide my race.

  • jeff4justice

    Isn’t there a vid where he calls out Andrew Dice Clay for homophobia?

  • RSun

    @Scribe38: This skinny white Canadian agrees with you 100%.

  • Mr. E. Jones


    gay-white-men have way more social clout than black men any day

    Everybody wants to be black, no one wants to be gay. In other words, everyone wants to be a n!gga, but no one wants to be a [email protected]

    Society, and media have made it cool to be an urban black male, and a joke to be a gay man.

    Lots of national media attention for Trayvon Martin, very little national media about Mark Carson. Maybe if Mark were straight, Ebony would have had four covers featuring celebs dressed like wrestlers.

  • EManhattan

    @Mr. E. Jones –

    Your reply is based on what evidence? The actual experience of black men is completely different from your beliefs – it would be good for you to do some research into the facts before spouting nonsense.

    Black men face constant profiling, constant negative reactions from many of the strangers they meet – no matter how “mainstream” they dress or act. Those are facts, backed up by the experience of millions of black men and quite a few psychological and sociological studies.

    And yes, gay men get the same – when they are identifiably gay. But most of us can pass for straight in hostile situations.

  • Scribe38

    @Mr. E. Jones: Adopting the culture of a minority group is not the same thing as wanting to become part of a minority group. Yes some white teens dress in hip-hop clothes and listen to rap but that doesn’t make them any more black than str8 men who pluck and wax their hair are gay. These people are just pulling out certain social traits and making them their own. I am happy you brought up Trayvon because it proves my point. If he was a gay white kid walking down the street Zimmermen wouldn’t have gotten out of his car. Because the kid was black, he obviously didn’t belong, obviously was up to no good, obviously needed to be followed, shot, and killed. SMH!

  • Scribe38

    @Mr. E. Jones: Why are you surprised that Ebony did multiple stories on a crime that affected the community that they serve? Queerty does stories relating to gays because it is the community they serve. The Trayvon story was posted on this site way after the story had blown up everywhere else and only in relationship to whether African American rights should matter to the gay rights movement. You are a grown man and should realize how media works by now. Certain stories just pull national attention. Last summer it was gay teen suicides (mostly white), this year it was Trayvon, cute white women kidnapped MAKE FRONT PAGE DURING ANY YEAR. There is plenty of research on media bias towards minority child abductions vs. white child abductions if you care to look.

  • Mr. E. Jones


    All the evidence you need can be found in media, and culture.

    Black men profiling, but so do gay people. The only difference is gay men are profiled, and experience negative reactions after we are found to be gay. We are denied housing, employment, and services just as often as black people.

    Frankly put–no one wants either of for neighbours, or dating their kids.

    To create a hierarchy of discrimination is absurd, simply because the flack Obama is catching because of his birth certificate, is the level of national outrage that we experience because of the repeal of DOMA.

    Your dismal of anti-gay bias by “passing” fr straight ignores men who are effeminate, or women who are masculine. That’s like telling black people to dress white, and talk white if they want to be treated like whites.

  • Fitz

    Racing for the title of Biggest Victim is not useful here.
    There are no kids running away from home and selling their ass because their dad found out they were black. But there also isn’t a history of slavery for gays, and for some of us we can “pass” when we need to.

    Arsino was an ASS, and he pandered to the lowest class. His angry clown routine shows how afraid he was.

  • Tackle

    @Scribe38: Your points are valid and very true. @boring: Louie Anderson was outed in 2002 the same yr that he was fired from Family freud due to sexual scandal involving so-called blackmail. The powers that be did not want that type of stigma associated with a family orientated show. And gays were not quick to claim him because he doesn’t/did not have the nice looking, pretty boy looks that’s so coveted in the gay community. We won’t admit it, but we really do want a beautiful football team.

  • Mr. E. Jones


    The fact that straight white people dress and “act” black, by your own admission, proves my point. You don’t see straight boys going out and “acting” gay. In fact, they go out of their way to avoid being perceived as gay.

    As for Trayvon Martin, taking your argument to the next point–if he wasn’t wearing a hoody, and acting shifty, would he have been shot? Was it just race, or attitude?

    Mark Carson was minding his own business, walking down the street and he was targeted for his sexuality. That you feel Trayvon Martin is somehow more tragic clearly presents your opinion that black suffering is more tragic than gay suffering. And I won’t mention your bigoted “gay-white-men” comment.

    Now as for Ebony–do they not serve Mark Carson? Was he not part of the black community? Or should he be relegated from the pages of a black publication because he was gay?

    The fact that Queerty reported extensively on the Trayvon Martin case, while Ebony ignored the Mark Carson case–a major case of anti-gay violence against a black man, in a gay neighborhood in NY, says a lot about these respective publications, and their bias, however you may perceive it.

  • Mr. E. Jones


    Slavery ended 200 years ago. A nation went to war over it. I have a hard time believing anyone would got o war over equality for LGBT people. Hell, Obama won’t even meet Putin to confront him about Russia’s anti-gay bills.

  • Scribe38

    @Fitz: He was rough on them but they were rudely interrupting his show. No one came to see the men who tried to take over his show. They came to see the black dude wearing the suit. He dealt with the people trying to embarrass him on national television. He wasn’t afraid. He was angry, that the jack-asses were making a scene where he was trying to work. They chose to make a scene, when they could have written letters, made phone calls, or contacted the network. They behaved as if he had something against gay people and he didn’t. As he said, plenty of gay people had come on his show.

  • Fitz

    E- I totally get where you are coming from, and I think that gay people get the short end more often than anyone else.. I’m just saying it’s not useful for two victim groups to argue over who has it worse.

  • Scribe38

    @Mr. E. Jones: Obama isn’t meeting Putin because of Snowden and you know it. There are countries that traffic in slavery, abuse women and children, deny the most basic human rights and we don’t go to war over it unless they have something we want like oil.

  • Scribe38

    @Mr. E. Jones: GoGGle GAY CHICKEN and emo kids, or boy bands,… str8 dudes kissing each other… the gayest thing I have ever seen. Yes your right a black teen walking with a ice tea and bag of candy is shifty! I did I not see it before. He deserved what happened to him.

  • Bob LaBlah

    @Mr. E. Jones: I ALWAYS thought the same thing. I was watching the show that night and remember it well. Everything he did and said sounded “prepared”, not from the hip. Had he shut up two minutes after he began it would have ALL been believed and forgotten. For years whenever I heard Arsenio’s name I always thought about THIS incident and how something just didn’t seem right about it.
    After he was cancelled many former members of the crew spoke about his sexual preference and cocaine use. He looks, acts and sounds high off coke after a second look at the vid. Especially when he can’t calm down. Or so pretends not to be able to calm down. What a perfect excuse to the producer to get to do a line or have a drink. Arsenio, I won’t be watching babe. You are something I left in the 1980’s and prefer not to resurrect.
    I LOVE middle age and the things I have lived through and the SHIT that I have seen on tv.

  • Nyruinz


    You can hide your sexuality or even your religion for that matter but you can not hide the color of your skin. I am a “gay black man” and I will tell you this, based on my experiences society is still way more excepting of a “white gay male” than a black male. Unless you are a black male you can not speak on what black men go through on a daily basis, so please stop attempting to do so. Racism towards blacks is still prevalent in the America as well as the gay community. If I had a dollar for every time I saw “SORRY NO BLACKS” on a personal ad I would be rich, but wait that’s not racism it’s just a personal “preference”.

  • Nyruinz

    “Scribe” my above comment was directed @Icebloo, sorry about the error

  • LeNair Xavier

    I had not come to terms with my sexuality when this incident happened, but 22 years later, I still:

    1)I HATE groups like Queer Nation. For they are what I call, “militant gays” – group that keep the stereotype of gays being narcissism alive. For they forget that we don’t AND CAN’T live in a world of only gays. So the gay plight is not the only plight.
    2)I believe that race does play a factor. For why didn’t Queer Nation try this stunt with The Tonight Show, which had a bigger viewing audience? It’s because gay media was doing the same thing then as they are doing today. Which is paint Blacks to be these raging homophobes. Meanwhile, give Whites a way to profit from their homophobia. Such as White “gay-for-pay” porn actors, who have time and time again wound up showing themselves to be violent. Most likely because of their denial.

    Now,if it was at all staged as some of the previous comments are suggesting, then because of the homophobic label put on Blacks, it was a very bad idea for Arsenio to go along with it. However, if it was a real altercation, then Arsenio handled the situation well, and Queer Nation got the tongue-lashing they deserved.

  • hyhybt

    @Tackle: Any evidence that Louie Anderson was replaced on Family Feud because of that? He was only so-so as host from the beginning and got worse rather than better. It seemed like he’d totally lost interest in the job (which would be a great reason for him not to sign on for another year) and let it show on-air (which would be a great reason in itself for the show to find a new host.)

    @Scribe38: Contact what network? The Arsenio Hall Show was syndicated.

  • 1EqualityUSA

    I work and care for many black people in our community and never have I found a more genuine, spiritually gifted, humorous, loving lot of souls on this planet. I adore our time together and know that mere conversation doesn’t begin to touch on the type of interchange we feel. Many speak with their spirit. The exchange of information far exceeds anything verbal communication can accomplish. This extraordinary talent, wrought by horrific pain, is mind-blowing. Being a third generation immigrant, the level of fear and long dormant survival techniques, surfaced in my own family. I know this kind of communication. It is a sophisticated combination of listening to the words leave the speaker’s mouth and absorbing the subtle nuance of body language. The eyes are the windows to the soul and any community that has endured this type of oppression and harm are masters at deciphering. The harm done to this race is deeper than the harm done to immigrants, illegal aliens, or any other group of people. Nobody has had their cultural fabric ripped apart as did the blacks. When any other cultural group came to the United States, yes, they were hated and mistreated, however, they came here willingly and with their cultural beliefs intact. They still had their religious beliefs tying them closely together. They still had aspects of their culture and foods knitting them together. They still had their families, albeit all in one room, still intact. No other race has been so ravaged as the black race. The doctors, nurses, surgeons, friends and all with whom I relate give me hope that we are overcoming this hurt. The punks that do harm or commit crimes, however, not only harm their direct victims, they harm the whole black community. Part of the profiling issue is directly related to these punks. It’s not fair, but the younger generation is slipping a bit towards the dark side, due to inordinate anger, hopelessness, having been excluded in subtle ways and in the not so subtle ways. Being reared in a culture, where this wound has yet to heal, is a burden many of us will never know. It’s a shame that women feel the need to grasp their purses a little more tightly when in the presence of a black person. It’s not fair to the good guys. It takes only a few to harm the reputation of many. How unfortunate that the opposite is not true. Green surgical scrubs vs hoodies. It’s not fair.

  • Lefty

    I couldn’t be bothered watching it all, mainly because from the very beginning, by the way they – and esp. Arsenio was (badly) – acting, it seems so obviously a pre-arranged set-up.

  • DarkZephyr

    Personally, I am not fond of people saying “You can hide your sexuality and still get a job” as if that is some kind of positive thing. I don’t want to pretend to be someone that I am not just to get a job. Then when you are inevitably outed you get fired and vilified. No thanks. I am not going to play the “who has it worse” game though. In my mind, bigotry is bad, period. I just know that me personally, without ever having to say “I am gay” got the crap kicked out of me in school for being gay. I never told anyone that I was either. I didn’t “flaunt it” or anything. I was choked, stabbed, spat on, tripped, punched, called names, you name it. I didn’t have to say a word. Somehow they knew.

  • CXXX1

    Icebloo,, Mr. E and Scribe, Your comments lead me to believe you are all ignorant, but that would be an insult to the Ignorant.

    I am an AF-AM and the civil rights we still fight for cannot possibly be compared to the civil rights that the LGBT community is fighting for. You cannot compare the fight for the LGBT communities fight to the Holocaust and you cannot compare it to the civil rights of AF-AM’s. As pointed out above you do not have to disclose your sexuality,many LGBT’s marry women/men and have families all the while hiding the truth too the people closest to them. No one can hide the color of their skin. It is the first thing someone see’s about a person. Depending on whether or not your are effeminate then people while automatically assume you are straight. In the gay community where so called “Str8 Acting” is something gay men aspire to be or get involved with is another way for gay men to hide. I cannot hide and I never want to that, so I told my parents and everyone else I was gay when I was 15. I have never been in the closet, that was not the way I choose to live my life.

    You 3 made comments about gay people having it just as bad as AF-AM’s and that is so nonsensical and dumbfounding I cannot believe that in your white privileged minds you actually believe it. Slavery did not end 200 years ago, the Civil War began in 1859 unless you are using some kind of new math you do not know your history of this country. Then after that it would take yours before all the slaves were set free. At that point they found new ways to discriminate, ever heard of the “Jim Crow” laws? Also, if hoodies make people look shifty then why the hell hasn’t anyone tried to take out Justin Bieber? Doesn’t the Gap, A&F,Hollister, etc sell the hell out of hoodies? Maybe it was the combination of the Hoodie w/ Iced tea and skittles pushed it over the edge. Hey there’s a new movie coming out called “FruitVale Station” about an AF-AM who was handcuffed and lying face down on a train platform and shoot to death by a police officer. Maybe the cop thought he was gay???

    It was brought up that Ebony did not feature the story about Mark Carson, which is totally shitty but, did you go march to get justice for Trayvon? Look at the gay men who came out in the late 80’s and 90’s who pierced their left ear signaling they were str8 while being gay and the Right ear was to signal they were gay. Again, hiding yet so proud to be gay.I love how gay people talk about gays being sent to concentration camps where many died there, but can you honestly compare that to the millions of Jews they killed? Yes we were victims of the Holocaust, but not on the scale the Jews were. Not even close. AF-AM’s had the civil war and the Gay’s had stonewall. You honestly think you an compare all the many people who died during the Middle Passage,Lynching of AF-AM’s all across America to Marriage Equality? You want to compare how I get pulled over by a cop and him asking me “How did I get a nice car like your driving” when I have done nothing wrong or because I am taking a full car of my niece’s to the movies only to see the cop do a u-turn and begin following us just to run my plates and see that I have no issues with the police and am driving lawfully? I get to be called [email protected] and The N-word and other words that are just as ugly and hate filled that mean the exact damn thing.

    The poster above me made reference of how the fabric of my culture was stolen from us and to have a woman tell me after the LA riots that “At least you an always go back to Africa”. My reality is that The tribe I was descended from is unknown to me, that the language of that tribe I will never know, the beauty of their traditions lost, because we were seen as less then human. We had no worth as humans.My reality is that I am Not 100% African because the slave owner raped my ancestor’s and their son’s did and their overseer did because they had no choice in the matter. What institutionalized sexual abuse were forced upon the gay community? The civil rights fight for AF-AM’s are far from over, don’t think it’s over. As a man I fight for ALL people to have the same basic human rights, but if you want t start telling me about MY reality in America then you really needed to have been born AF-AM AND Gay.

    It’s funny I was all for the “It get’s Better” campaign(I still am) yet, I look at the LGBT community and see just how discriminating THIS community really is, there is racism,sexism,ageism,homophobia(Yes. Gay people can have a healthy dose of self-hate) How this community doesn’t readily accept transgender members of our community or Bisexuals. Our community is not as inclusive as it seems to be. I wonder of all those kids that killed themselves had lived how would the have been treated? Would they have been accpeted? Be pretty enough or str8 acting enough? Make no mistake people of color who are also gay get discriminated from both communities.The people who shout the loudest about being discriminated against for being gay are the one’s who have enjoyed white privilege all their lives and one they came out was the first time they had to deal with it and that is what makes them believe that their pain of being ostracized, not being hired for jobs, turned away at certain stores, restaurants etc is the most horrible things that happen to you. They are horrible and no one should ever be treated like that. Those of us who are people of color have been dealing with things like that our entire lives. Learning of about the atrocities forced on our people just for simply being. At five you may have you were different, like other boys or other girls, but once you say it out loud and you start getting strange looks and called out of your name your whole world changes. People of color already have a different reality. By the time when come out our skin is already pretty tough. We learned to fight back and rise above when needed and discounting our struggle by saying it’s the same, it’s not. It’s really, really not. It may be a limb on the same tree, but it’s not the bulk of it.

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