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Talk show host: Anti-vaxxers treated worse than AIDS patients

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Dennis Prager — Photo by Gage Skidmore
Dennis Prager — Photo by Gage Skidmore

Right-wing radio talk show host Dennis Prager stirred up a storm of controversy with his November 8 claim that people refusing a COVID-19 vaccine are treated worse than AIDS patients at the height of the epidemic.

Photo courtesy of Salem National  

Prager made the remarks during an interview with Newsmax, a fringe right-wing network. Anti-vaxxers are "the pariahs of America as I have not seen in my lifetime," Prager said.

"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... been pariahs the way the non-vaccinated are? But it would have been inconceivable. And it should have been inconceivable."

Given that people with AIDS — or even people suspected of having the virus, or associated with people having the virus — were, in fact, subjected to stigma, isolation, and even physical assault, Prager's comments provoked a stream of reactions.

"People with AIDS weren't just pariahs; conservatives like William F. Buckley Jr. wanted them tattooed," activist 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."

Non-binary author Mx. D.E. Anderson also commented. "Prager is playing dumb when he literally was part of the stigmatization of the queer community during the AIDS crisis," they wrote. "He knows what he's doing and he's deliberately lying."

Many SGN readers will remember that during the 1980s and '90s, homophobia rose to new levels on a global scale, with hate crimes spiking during the period.

Government officials following the lead 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, in spite of the fact that he and Nancy were personal friends of Rock Hudson.

Conservative Christians labeled AIDS "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 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.

Prager has a long history of attacking the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV in particular. In 2014 he claimed that "heterosexual AIDS" was a hoax — that only Gay people were at risk for the disease because of the inherently unhealthy nature of same-sex intercourse.