In a February 12 broadcast that had nothing to do with LGBT equality (subject was a reporter's misbegotten interview with an actor), anti-equality commentator Rush Limbaugh could barely mention the name of CNN anchor Don Lemon without noting that he's a gay man. Every time the conservative radio superstar made reference to Lemon, Limbaugh had to talk about the cable news personality's "sex with men."
From the transcript:
FULL: Don Lemon Defends KTLA [Rush]
There was no reason for Rush to mention it. The radio host doesn't see a need to attach a "he's straight" or "she has sex with other men" label to every non-gay anchor. Plus, let me state again that this wasn't a story about LGBT issues, in which case some might find some sort of relevance between the situation and Lemon's personal life. This was an entertainment story that led to a conversation about race. And for some reason, when Limbaugh thought of Lemon and his commentary, he thought of how and with whom the newsman has sex.
Had that been the only time this happened, I probably wouldn't have ever noted it. But here's the thing: on yesterday's edition of his program, Rush totally did it again! In yet another story that had absolutely nothing to do with LGBT anything (this one was about now-ousted NBA owner Donald Sterling), Limbaugh felt some sort of need to mention what Don Lemon does in his bedroom:
FULL: Humorless CNN Claims I Defended Sterling [Rush]
Weird, Rush didn't note the gender, number of participants, or state of pride with which Erin Burnett has sexual intercourse. But of course Rush did see a need to let his listeners in on the privacy of the Lemon bedroom. Just throwing it out there I guess, huh big guy? Just giving your listeners a little biographical sketch in order to heighten the experience? Just throwing in some flare?
No. Let's get real about what's going on here: This is old school smearing from the conservative media's old guard.
In both of these stories, Limbaugh is trying to portray himself as above Lemon. That's particularly true in the second, where Limbaugh is claiming that he was "joking" about something that Lemon (correctly) reported at face value. In order to make what he thinks is a stronger case against the CNN anchor, the conservative talker tosses in a fact that he, someone who produly opposes LGBT rights, sees as a lesser-than quality. While the spoken text might lead us to wonder why Mr. Limbaugh has such an interest in sex he presumably does not himself desire, the real reason he feels the need to couple the name Don Lemon with "has sex with other men" is in the subtext. It is all about insinuation. It's a suggestion that this guy, Don Lemon, can't be fully trusted or seen as Rush's intellectual equal, as he's one of those silly gays who has the silly sex. With men. And proudly.
But even while Rush denigrates Lemon, GLAAD was proud to honor Lemon in during our 25th anniversary celebration in Atlanta in 2011. Lemon was one of several local heroes nominated and selected by the GLAAD Atlanta Leadership Council as an individual who made a difference in the LGBT community through his work, activism, philanthropy & volunteerism.
Of course the joke's on Rush and anyone who thinks this vestigial bit of broadcast homophobia is going to get them anywhere. The fact is, Don is out. And proud. And does have sex (I don't really know, but it's possible). I can't imagine he cares even a little bit about these bio notes getting out there for all to hear. Having met Don, I'm pretty sure he finds the humor in it, actually.
But when looking at it from the perspective of Rush and the whats and whys and hows of his poking his mind into Don Lemon's underpants? The whole thing comes across as not only like a relic from a gay-baiting past—but a really creepy one, too.