Another member of the political establishment is apologizing for his former views after an editorial written during his college years has made its way to the public, this time with content disparaging gay HIV and AIDS victims for contracting the disease.
According to The Daily Beast, Marc Short, incoming chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence, penned an editorial in a conservative publication he founded at Washington & Lee University in 1989 criticizing what he called “the propaganda campaign ignited by gay activists and carelessly perpetuated by journalists whose intent is to scare all heterosexuals into believing they are prime targets for contraction of the disease.”
The goal of said campaign, Short wrote, was “to destigmatize the perverted lifestyles homosexuals pursue.”
Short went on to suggest that those in the gay community were pleased to hear of NBA star Magic Johnson’s HIV diagnosis, as it would lend credence to the idea that HIV and AIDS are not confined to homosexuals.
“No one can doubt… the celebration by AIDS activists of Magic's infection,” Short said, as it “shocked the world into believing this nonsense that everyone is prone to infection.”
The inspiration for Short’s editorial appeared to be an interview given by W&L alumnus Edwin Wright to the school’s primary publication, during which he spoke of his own HIV diagnosis.
Wright said during the interview that he had watched four people die from AIDS, which gave him insight into his own fate: “I know exactly what I'm in for,” he said.
Referencing Wright in his piece, Short said while he felt sympathy for him, “that does not mean that we glorify homosexuals' repugnant practices of frequent anal intercourse nor should we consider them brave for coming out of the closet.”
He concluded with a warning: “Homosexuals who pursue unhealthy lifestyles and engage in high risk sexual behavior, specifically anal intercourse, may very well end up like Mr. Wright.”
Short has apologized for the piece published in The Spectator — for which he served as an editor from its founding until he graduated in 1992 — saying in a statement to The Daily Beast:
“I regret using language as an undergraduate college student that was not reflective of the respect I try to show others today. We have all learned a lot about AIDS over the past 30 years and my heart goes out to all the victims of this terrible disease.”
The Daily Beast noted that Short is “one of the Republican Party’s most powerful behind-the-scenes operatives,” having previously served as President Donald Trump’s chief congressional liaison and prior to that as the president of the Koch Brothers’ political fund.
But longtime AIDS and gay rights activist Peter Staley said he isn’t buying Short’s apology.
“I wrote stuff in college too. And I don’t look back and say, ‘Oh, sorry, it was my college years.’ You’re either on the right side of stuff or the wrong side,” Staley told The Daily Beast, adding: “He was taking classic Jesse Helms-style rhetoric from the late '80s and putting an early '90s spin on it and sounding like the fools they all were… Guys like him wanted us to die. And they had an effect.”
The situation brings to mind Pence’s history with issues surrounding gay rights and HIV, which The Daily Beast noted includes the vice president’s support for a law as governor of Indiana that “allowed business owners to deny services to the LGBT community based on the owner’s religious beliefs” — though public pressure forced Pence to sign a “fix” for the bill.
He also presided over the HIV boom Indiana experienced from 2011-2015, which research has since found would have been drastically limited had Pence acted sooner.
But his hesitancy to enact a needle exchange program on moral grounds allowed new diagnoses to surge, with 215 people in one small Indiana county affected by the virus.
Had Pence implemented the program right away, instead of waiting more than two years to heed the advice of experts, fewer than 56 people would have been affected, research showed.
Pence did not respond to a request for comment for this story.