Conservative radio host Dennis Prager invited wide backlash on Monday, when he made the ridiculous claim that Americans refusing to get vaccinated for Covid-19 are treated worse than patients at the height of the AIDS epidemic.
Newsweek reports that Prager made the comments in an interview with right-wing fringe network Newsmax. While addressing the issue of vaccine mandates, Prager claimed that Americans refusing the vaccine are “the pariahs of America as I have not seen in my lifetime.”
“During the AIDS crisis, can you imagine if gay men and intravenous drug users,” Prager continued, “who were the vast majority of the people with AIDS, had they been pariahs the way the non-vaccinated are? But it would have been inconceivable. And it should have been inconceivable.”
Given the utter–and offensive–ridiculousness of his claim, queer voices chimed in to correct Prager.
“People with AIDS weren’t just pariahs; conservatives like William F. Buckley Jr. wanted them tattooed,” queer journalist Michael Signorile wrote on Twitter. “Everyone Prager looks up in to in conservative punditry thought they all deserved what they got — God’s wrath. That’s not an exaggeration.”
People with AIDS weren't just pariahs; conservative like William F. Buckley Jr. wanted them tattooed.
Everyone Prager looks up in to in conservative punditry thought they all deserved what they got — God's wrath.
That's not an exaggeration. https://t.co/QOu2lTKwii
— Michelangelo Signorile (@MSignorile) November 9, 2021
Non-binary author Mx. D.E. Anderson also chimed in to refute Prager’s claim. “Prager is playing dumb when he literally was part of the stigmatization of the queer community during the AIDS crisis,” Anderson wrote. “He knows what he’s doing and he’s deliberately lying.”
This thread. Prager is playing dumb when he literally was part of the stigmatization of the queer community during the AIDS crisis. He knows what he’s doing and he’s deliberately lying. https://t.co/FPjGtC6Z7K
— Mx. D.E. Anderson (@diannaeanderson) November 9, 2021
Anderson and Signorile only begin to scratch the surface of the outrageous falsehood of Prager’s assertion. In the 1980s and ’90s, homophobia rose to new levels of hostility on a global scale, with hate crimes spiking during the period. Doctors struggled to develop an effective treatment for HIV/AIDS; in essence, patients who received a positive diagnosis were given a death sentence. Government officials under the direction of then-President Ronald Regan ignored the crisis, or worse, made fun of AIDS patients during press briefings. Reagan himself refused to even utter the word AIDS until 1985, while conservative Christians labeled the disease God’s punishment for homosexuality. HIV+ patients could lose their jobs, healthcare or homes as a result of their diagnosis. In Indiana, a 13-year-old boy named Ryan White who contracted HIV through a blood transfusion was banned from attending public school; his case resulted in a lawsuit that gained national attention.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Prager has targeted the queer community, AIDS patients or COVID-19 precautions. In 2014 he attacked same-sex marriage rights and claimed that “heterosexual AIDS” was a hoax. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Prager also lambasted lockdowns as “the greatest mistake in the history of humanity” and claimed that the media had overhyped the threat of the virus. Later, when Prager contracted COVID, he falsely claimed the disease would give him immunity against coronaviruses for life.