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New Pence Chief of Staff Once Called Gay Sex 'Repugnant,' 'Perverted'

Marc Short

Marc Short says his views have changed since he wrote those words in college in 1992.

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence's new chief of staff, once wrote a virulently homophobic column about AIDS, calling gay sex "repugnant."

The piece, unearthed by American Bridge, a Democratic opposition research group, ran in the March 1992 issue of the W&L Spectator, a conservative student-run publication at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. Short was a cofounder of the paper, according to The Daily Beast, which broke the story Wednesday.

Activists lobbying the federal government for funding to address the AIDS epidemic were seeking "to destigmatize the perverted lifestyles homosexuals pursue," Short wrote in 1992. He said that having sympathy for people with AIDS "does not mean that we glorify homosexuals' repugnant practices of frequent anal intercourse nor should we consider them brave for coming out of the closet."

He also contended that AIDS activists were celebrating the news of NBA star Magic Johnson's HIV-positive diagnosis because it "shocked the world into believing this nonsense that everyone is prone to infection."

Short told the Beast the column does not reflect his current views. "I regret using language as an undergraduate college student that was not reflective of the respect I try to show others today," he said in a prepared statement. "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."

Longtime AIDS activist Peter Staley said it didn't matter how long ago Short wrote the piece. "I wrote stuff in college too. 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 told the Beast. "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." When the Beast asked if "guys like him" referred to Short or Helms, the late, intensely homophobic U.S. senator, Staley said, "Rhetoric like that killed us. Let's put it that way."

Pence, who is known for his anti-LGBTQ stances, did not offer the Beast a comment for the article. The Advocate has contacted Pence's press secretary and has yet to receive a response.

Short was chief of staff for Pence when the latter was in Congress in the early 2000s. He also worked for Pence during the 2016 presidential campaign, then became White House legislative director, lobbying Congress to further Donald Trump's agenda. He left that position for a one-year fellowship at the University of Virginia's Miller Center for Public Affairs, but left that six months early to become the vice president's chief of staff, succeeding Nick Ayers. Short has also worked for the Koch Brothers, influential Republican donors.

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