Donohue Defends Museum Censorship, Blames “Gay Activists” and “Bathhouses” for Artist’s Death

Last month, Catholic League president Bill Donohue’s ugly attack on the Smithsonian’s Hide/Seek exhibit led to the censoring of a work by late artist David Wojnarowicz after Republican leaders joined in his demand that the Smithsonian pull Wojnarowicz’s film. The Smithsonian’s decision to censor the exhibit received widespread scrutiny and criticism. In yesterday’s New York Times Michael Kimmelman wrote about the European reaction and a British museum that is now screening the censored film. “So the Smithsonian’s surrender at least had the virtue of reminding everyone on both sides of the Atlantic of his work,” writes Kimmelman, “the voices of those who died from AIDS mostly died with them, but Wojnarowicz’s, deep and distinct, returned in recordings played at the Tate.”

But Donohue, who pays himself handily to find almost anything and everything offensive, was not taking any more criticism of his censorship-advocacy.

In a statement released today, Donohue defended his campaign for censoring the Smithsonian and blamed the LGBT community for killing Wojnarowicz, who died as a result of AIDS. Never a fan of civility, Donohue attacks Kimmelman for branding “the artist a hero who fought bigotry” and said that if Wojnarowicz “followed the teachings of the Catholic Church on sexuality, he would be alive today.” Donohue instead says “gay activists” had “killed the artist,” saying:

The man who made the vile video died of AIDS. Had he followed the teachings of the Catholic Church on sexuality, he would be alive today. Instead, he blamed the Church. That’s why he liked to make videos showing Jesus’ head exploding, and that’s why he called John Cardinal O’Connor—whose archdiocese spent more money fighting AIDS than any other private source—a “fat cannibal from that house of walking swastikas.” Yet Kimmelman brands the artist a hero who fought bigotry!

It was not the Catholic Church that killed the artist, David Wojnarowicz: it was gay activists, many of whom are in the artistic community. They were the ones who demanded that the bathhouses be kept open, even as their brothers were dying left and right. To exploit this tragedy any longer is sick. Catholicism is the answer, not the problem.