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UNCOVERED: Mike Pence Shamed AIDS Activists at 1996 Convention


More proof the vice-presidential candidate was the voice of bigotry long before Donald Trump.

People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch recently uncovered articles written by Trump running mate Mike Pence for an Indiana journal the 1990s, which further showcase his anti-LGBT beliefs. One in particular was about the 1996 Republican convention, where Pence basically slams AIDS activists, feminists, and people of color.

During this time, Mike Pence was president of the Indiana Policy Review, a statewide conservative think tank. The group also published a magazine of the same name, where Pence was on top of the masthead. In an article titled, “What if They Held a Convention and Nobody Came?” Pence points out the conventions low ratings, using vocabulary like “drop in television viewership” and “huge numbers” ­— terms straight out of Trump’s dictionary.

“Gone, too, we are told, was the ‘divisiveness’ of the 1992 convention,” Pence writes nostalgically. “While the anchors of all the major networks did their best to highlight party disagreements on certain issues — abortion and affirmative action especially — even they acknowledge the moderate, cotton-ball imagery emanating from the podium, imagery thought to be appealing to the ‘mainstream.’”

Pence goes on to say that the AIDS activists bombed, even going so far as to blaming them for the low ratings.

“An endless line of pro-choice women, AIDS activists and proponents of affirmative action may have struck a chord with the Washington press corps. They bombed, however, in Peoria. Add to that the systematic exclusion from prime time of social conservatives and you have the makings of a real ratings buster.”

By the way, the AIDS activists who spoke at the 1996 convention were Mary Fisher, a Republican who worked previously in the Ford administration, and 12-year old Hydeia Broadbent, who was born HIV-positive and abandoned at a local hospital. Both speeches were considered very moving and likely changed how many Americans thought of AIDS at the time. (Watch the video here on C-Span.)

As pointed out by Ari Rabin-Havt, Fisher also spoke at the 1992 convention, which was so moving and grondbreaking it was published in the anthology Words of a Century: The Top 100 American Speeches, 1900-1999. In 2011, Broadbent was named one of the top 100 African-American History Makers in the Making by The Grio and has been featured in Plus magazine's 20 Most Amazing HIV-Positive Women list.

While it’s understood Pence might not have been talking about Fisher or Broadbent specifically, but rather the belief that at the time HIV and AIDS were considered gay issues, it's clear he didn’t consider LGBT people the kind of “pro-family” supporters he thought made up the majority of his party.

“Whether the elites in the media and the GOP like it or not,” Pence wrote, “traditional pro-family conservatives make up the bedrock of modern Republican electoral success. And to the point here, they make up the majority of the potential audience for a GOP convention as well.”

But wait there’s more.

Right Wing Watch also uncovered a plethora of antigay articles published in the Indiana publication during the time Pence was in charge. One in particular, published in August 1993, was written by Col. Ronald Ray who argued against having gay people serve in the military.

“Homosexuals are not as a group able bodied,” Ray wrote, “and are known to carry extremely high rates of disease brought on because of the nature of their sexual practices and the promiscuity, which is a hallmark of their lifestyle.” He also tried to say all homosexuals are pedophiles, citing NAMBLA as well as a publication claiming the love between man and boys is “at the foundation of homosexuality.”

In December 1993, another article, titled "The Pink Newsroom," spoke about LGBT people working in news, arguing against The Wall Street Journal holding a job fair for gay journalists, calling “gaydom” a pathological condition.

“A gay editor,” the writer of the piece said, “like any other editor, might be convincing in a contention that he did not allow his sexually-motivated behavior to play a part in news or editorial judgment. But when the matter is the special interest of organized homosexuals, how can the argument for anonymity be made?”

The writer goes on to say that extremists of the "gay movement" consider themselves members of a “sexual determined political party.”

It's clear to many observers that Mike Pence and Donald Trump are made for each other, seeing as 20 years ago the vice-presidential hopeful dreamed of Trump's America long before the public dared to. By spewing antigay rhetoric that only appealed to a small fraction of conservatives, Pence had hoped his ideas would be bought. While it took two decades for the latest example of Pence's bigotry to see the light, something tells us he hasn't changed his mind. 

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