Right-wing radio talker Rush Limbaugh says Donald Trump advised him not to apologize for his recent remarks that the president would “have fun” on the debate stage with gay candidate Pete Buttigieg and that voters may not be ready for a gay presidential nominee.
Democratic leaders, Limbaugh said last week, are “looking at Mayor Pete, 37-year-old gay guy, [former] mayor of South Bend, loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage. And they’re saying, ‘OK, how’s this going to look, 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband onstage next to Mr. Man Donald Trump? What’s going to happen there?’ And they got to be looking at that, and they’ve got to be saying, that despite all the great progress and despite all the great wokeness and despite all the great ground that’s been covered, America’s still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president.”
Limbaugh, who has a long record of homophobia and transphobia as well as other types of bigotry, received a firestorm of criticism and a bit of lampooning over the comments. Notably, Michigan’s first openly gay statewide elected official, Attorney General Dana Nessel, trolled him on Twitter by posting a photo of her kissing her wife, Alanna Maguire, on election night 2018 and saying Buttigieg isn’t going back into the closet and neither is she.
On Monday’s edition of his nationally syndicated show, Limbaugh said he got a call from Trump about the matter: “He said, ‘Rush, I just got to tell you something. Never apologize, don’t ever — ’ and I said, ‘For what?’” Limbaugh claimed to not even know there was any outrage over his comments.
Limbaugh said he thinks Democrats are upset about the mere fact that he said Buttigieg is gay, implying that the party is trying to keep that information hidden — although, as Limbaugh himself had pointed out, Buttigieg is known to kiss his husband, Chasten, in public, including on television.
“I think they think a lot of people didn’t know that he’s gay. … I think that’s what they’re mad about, that I even mentioned it,” Limbaugh said on the Monday broadcast, in a clip posted by watchdog group Media Matters for America. He also contended the comments weren’t homophobic. “I simply was engaging in political analysis that is politically incorrect as far as the left is concerned,” he said.
While Buttigieg has received criticism for some of his policy positions and fundraising tactics, and some of his detractors say he doesn’t emphasize his gay identity enough, any reasonably informed voter would have to know he’s gay. He’s been publicly out since 2015, when he was running for reelection as South Bend mayor (he won after coming out), and he has shared his coming-out story on the debate stage and talked frequently about his husband. The couple even appeared on the cover of Time. The Iowa caucus participant who tried to rescind her vote for him because she had just found out he’s gay was obviously an outlier.
Buttigieg responded to Limbaugh’s comments from the previous week Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, saying, “I am not going to take lectures on family values from the likes of Rush Limbaugh.” Limbaugh denied that he was giving a lecture or that his remarks were antigay.
However, the Human Rights Campaign called out the homophobia of both Trump and Limbaugh, on whom Trump recently bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The organization’s president, Alphonso David, released this statement:
“Trump’s embrace of Limbaugh’s homophobia is not only offensive on its face, but further compounded by his repeated attempts to gaslight the LGBTQ community. Throughout his tenure, Trump has attacked LGBTQ people with vicious rhetoric and discriminatory regulations, all while claiming to be an ally.
“To cite a few — Trump has sanctioned policies that would allow federal contractors to fire LGBTQ workers from their jobs, allow medical providers to deny transgender people health care and allow foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people, religious minorities and women who are seeking to have families. In fact, he and his administration have refused to advance bipartisan federal civil rights legislation — the Equality Act — which would protect LGBTQ people and overwhelmingly passed through the U.S. House of Representatives in May 2019.
“LGBTQ people knew a long time ago that Trump cannot be trusted. This November, LGBTQ voters will turn out by the millions to oust Trump and install a true pro-equality ally.”