When Rush Limbaugh died, we all yelled “Hurrah!” Even though you’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead, I did so in writing about the destructive Limbaugh, who was among the most hateful people on Earth.
I got a couple of messages after my “obituary” of Limbaugh was quoted detrimentally on a right-wing Christian website. “You will burn in hell because of what you did,” wrote one pious individual. It made me laugh because I wanted to respond, “Um, Limbaugh said I was going to burn in hell when he was alive, so I’m not seeing what’s so different about that sentiment now that he's dead.”
This brings us to the timely death of a truly evil man, Pat Robertson. If Limbaugh was a 9 out of 10 on LGBTQ+ hate, Robertson was an 11. We did nothing to him, but this “Reverend,’ if that’s what you call someone who preaches detestation and disdain, sure had it out for us in a way that was almost like an obsession. When someone is that contemptible toward you, it usually means they harbor a deep jealousy or they are just out of their mind.
I knew when my great-grandmother started to lose hers. After my great-grandfather died, she was all alone, and when we’d make the 45-minute drive to go see her when I was young, I remember that she suddenly started talking about watching The 700Club and singing the praises of Robertson. I remember my mom rolling her eyes.
The next time I’d hear that name was when I was in my first year on Capitol Hill and Robertson ran for president in 1987-1988. He really rubbed me the wrong way because he seemed to seethe with anger, which didn't jell with someone who preached the word of a loving God. By that time evangelicals had infiltrated the Republican Party so much so that Robertson came in third in the GOP primary races behind the eventual nominee and general election winner, Vice President George H.W. Bush, and U.S. Senator Bob Dole. That Robertson did so well was a scary moment.
And I had a scary moment the first time I saw the man. It was in Manhattan, and I was walking down Park Avenue, and a big limousine pulled up and Robertson got out. I shook my head, and remembered thinking something to the effect that Jesus never rode around in a limousine.
Pat Robertson lived lavishly, and he made a ton of money, millions of which were earned by spewing disgusting comments about us to his viewers and followers, who were no doubt freaked out enough people about queers that they sent him their hard-earned cash so he could keep broadcasting his hate, which brought more money — it was a vicious cycle. Vicious in the way he talked about us, but lucrative for Robertson.
One of his cash-cow comments went like this: “Many of those people involved with Adolf Hitler were Satanists, many were homosexuals. The two things seem to go together.” Then, after the Pulse shooting: “The best thing to do is to sit on the sidelines and let [LGBTQ +rights advocates and Muslims] kill themselves.” Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching, all the way to the bank.
I’m not going to repeat any more of his garbage, because he’s dead now, and so are his opinions, so they don’t matter anymore — but they did for a long time, over 50 years, and if you want to point a finger at why so much hate toward the LGBTQ+ community still exists, you can point that finger squarely at Robertson.
Sure, many people knew he was a whack job with all his insanely insensitive and idiotic comments, but to millions he preached the truth, and his hate speech was omnipresent at the worst time, when our community was dealing with AIDS deaths by the hundreds of thousands.
At a time when sympathy, understanding, and compassion should have been the order of the day, the supposed minister preached hostility, ignorance, and indifference. Arguably, he was at the zenith of his influence in 1988, when he ran for president, which was also right in the middle of worst period of the AIDS epidemic. Public opinion against gays and people with AIDS was a result of Robertson’s political and broadcasting bully pulpit.
For what he did, during that time period alone, Robertson deserves to burn in hell, and I say that without an ounce of remorse.
Some people, as they age, become wiser and also repentant for things they said and did in the past. The opposite held true for Robertson, which further demonstrated what a despicable human being he was. He never apologized, even when he went beyond the pale by claiming in 2013 that gays in San Francisco were spreading HIV by wearing rings that cut fingers while shaking hands. He did defend trans people a few years ago, to a point, but one good deed doesn't even begin to atone for all the incredible damage he inflicted upon us.
Even the Christian Broadcasting Network, where Robertson’s show aired, was horrified. It apologized, but Robertson refused. Like Donald Trump, Robertson didn’t know the meaning of the word "wrong."
Robertson was a precursor of Trump in one big way. Day after day, Robertson spouted lie after lie after lie, spreading venom and vitriol through the media, and his self-righteous and wrongheaded pre-MAGAs were brainwashed into sending donation after donation after donation. The more outrageous Robertson was, the richer he got, with an estimated net worth of $100 million at the time of his death.
Hate speech and hating queers is a lucrative business.
I recently did a journalism podcast, and the interviewer told me he read my tributes to Betty White, Queen Elizabeth II, and Regis Philbin. “It’s easy to write about people who spread love, peace, and happiness,” I said. “It’s also easy to write about people who were filled with hate.”
And no one in my lifetime was filled with more hate than Pat Robertson. Satan has met his match.
Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.