Vice President Mike Pence’s new chief of staff, Marc Short, is under fire after it was revealed he wrote offensive words about people with HIV/ AIDS and the LGBTQ community in a column for his college newspaper in 1992.
Short, who was pegged to work for Pence after previously serving as President Donald Trump’s director of legislative affairs, focused his column on downplaying the effects of HIV/ AIDS on straight populations and shaming gay men for “unhealthy lifestyles” that he said played the biggest role in the epidemic.
The column appeared in the March 1992 edition of W&L Spectator, a newspaper for which he served as senior editor during his time in college at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.
Short, now 48, wrote about the “perverted lifestyles homosexuals pursue” and said the media shouldn’t “glorify homosexuals’ repugnant practices.”
He further claimed gay activists and journalists maintained an agenda “to scare” straight people into believing they were at risk of contracting HIV, a tactic that he said was designed “to lobby Congress for more federal funding of AIDS research and to destigmatize the perverted lifestyles homosexuals pursue.”
The Daily Beast first broke the news of Short’s column, which was unearthed by American Bridge, a Democratic opposition research group. In a statement to The Daily Beast, Short said he regretted “using language as an undergraduate college student that was not reflective of the respect I try to show others today.”
Notably, he did not apologize.
“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,” Short said.
Gay rights and AIDS activist Peter Staley, who played a significant role in ACT UP and served for more than a decade on the board of what is now called amfAR: The Foundation for AIDS Research, slammed Short in a statement to The Daily Beast.
“I wrote stuff in college too,” Staley said. “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. 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.”
Short’s homophobia marks the latest blemish on an administration that has been hostile toward both LGBTQ people and those living with HIV/ AIDS. Pence, a former Indiana governor and member of Congress who has represented a brand of deeply religious homophobia dating back to long before he became vice president, refused to mention the queer community during his World AIDS Day Speech.
Trump has already redirected money away from crucial HIV/ AIDS funding pots like the Ryan White AIDS CARE Act program and proposed to cut the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is an initiative to fight HIV/ AIDS on a global scale.