Making grandiose, highly offensive statements is nothing new to extreme-right talk show host Dennis Prager. In fact, doing so has seemed to become a tried-and-true formula used by far-right media personalities to rack up ratings since the days of Rush Limbaugh. Earlier this year on his radio show, Prager even had the nerve to defend his, and others, use of the n-word (and in the same broadcast used a slur for Jewish people).
This week Prager’s at it again, this time gaslighting sufferers of the 1980s and 90s AIDS crisis by comparing them to the non-vaccinated. Yes, you heard that right. Not only did Prager have the audacity to compare the discrimination faced by those early victims of HIV to what today’s anti-vaxxers are dealing with — he actually suggested that what anti-vaxxers are now facing is much worse.
Prager made the inflammatory statements on Monday during a discussion about COVID-19 vaccination on the conservative website Newsmax. Here’s what he said:
“During the AIDS crisis, can you imagine if gay men and intravenous drug users, or the vast majority of people with AIDS, had they been pariahs the way the non-vaccinated are? But it would’ve been inconceivable.”
Now many are outraged that Prager would greatly undermine what people living with HIV went through at the time while also insinuating anti-vaxxers are facing discrimination today, which they are not. In addition, Prager is also erroneously comparing a virus that cannot be spread through casual contact (HIV) to one that is still deadly and can easily be passed through casual contact (COVID-19).
With the topic now trending on Twitter, many folks are taking to opportunity to criticize Prager and the gross inaccuracies of his statement.
One user, @BSheepherder, summed up the way many were feeling: “When AIDS sufferers were thought to be able to spread AIDS by simply breathing on or touching others, they WERE treated like pariahs ... ironically, most viciously by the same folks who now defend those who ACTUALLY CAN spread their disease by simply breathing on others.”
Others pointed out how Prager is surely old enough to remember how people living with HIV were truly treated at the time and called him out for using the gaslighting tactic.
“Jerk was in his 30's in the 80's old enough to know, understand & remember what was going on. I was in my early teens and I remember the fear of AIDS & the comments of "it is killing the right people" so who cares about them. He's either still in a COVID brain fog or he's lying,” wrote Twitter user @PamelaR23647592.
Many others who lived through the initial epidemic remembered folks like Ryan White on Twitter, a child who became HIV-positive from a blood transfusion and had to battle in court for his right to return to school, or Princess Diana, who fought stigma by visiting and shaking hands with patients in the AIDS ward of a hospital in the 1980s.
“Mr Prager, allow me to introduce you to Mr. Ryan White,” tweeted @Lycan_Jedi. “A young man completely ostracized and banned from ever returning to school. Why? Because he contracted AIDS due to a blood transfusion. People were scared to even go near him. It's not nearly as inconceivable as you think.”