Lyndon LaRouche, the frequent minor-party presidential candidate known for homophobia and wild conspiracy theories, has died at age 96.
LaRouche died Wednesday, The Washington Post reports. His political organization, LaRouchePAC, confirmed his death but did not disclose the cause.
He “built a worldwide following based on conspiracy theories, economic doom, anti-Semitism, homophobia and racism,” the Post notes. He ran for president eight times. He conducted one of his campaigns, in 1992, from federal prison, where he was serving a sentence for mail fraud.
Among his most notorious claims were that England’s Queen Elizabeth II was a drug dealer and that the International Monetary Fund created and spread HIV. In the 1980s, he managed to get propositions on the California ballot that, if approved by voters, would have resulted in the quarantine of people with HIV.
In 1985, LaRouche’s National Democratic Policy Committee – not affiliated in any way with the Democratic Party, although LaRouche associates sometimes ran in Democratic primaries – published a pamphlet with the title “AIDS Is More Deadly Than Nuclear War.” Then his organization managed to qualify a ballot measure regarding HIV and AIDS for the 1986 election in California, where it is easier to get initiatives on the ballot than in many other states.
The measure, Proposition 64, classified HIV as a communicable disease and said its “carriers” must be identified and “maintained” by the state. It did not mention quarantine, but it clearly would have resulted in that, notes a 1987 Chicago Reader profile of LaRouche. The proposition did not pass, but a third of California voters supported it. LaRouche and his associates tried again in 1988, with the almost-identical Proposition 69, which also failed.
LaRouche grew up in New England and was attracted to leftist ideology as a young man, even joining the Socialist Workers Party, but he soon embraced far-right views. His political thinking “became ultraconservative and apocalyptic, and he presented himself as the moral savior of mankind,” the Post reports. He considered “prosecutors, politicians, bankers and Zionists” to be his enemies, along with many others, according to the paper. He also was obsessed with the sex lives of his followers, telling them that sexual impotence was associated with political weakness.
He amassed a fortune through publications and donations to his “political front groups,” the Post notes, but his fundraising methods got him in legal trouble. The crimes for which he was imprisoned included unauthorized charges to the credit card accounts of some of his donors.
LaRouche also had a strong paranoid streak. When he was in prison in Rochester, Minn., sharing a cell with disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker, he believed the cell was bugged. He also thought the CIA, the former Soviet Union’s KGB intelligence agency, and British espionage services were trying to kill him.
LaRouche operated for a time out of New York City, then, since the mid-1980s, from a compound in northern Virginia, according to the Post. The paper could not immediately obtain a complete list of his survivors.