Much has been written in the last few days on Helm's racism. Weigel details his other kind of bigotry:
The anti-gay angle of the campaign was meaner still. Let's remember what "gay rights" meant in 1984. Gay marriage wasn't on the table, nor was gay adoption, or anything you could designate as "special rights." Helms favored legislation that criminalized gay sex. He attempted to override a 1981 Washington, D.C. law that legalized it. This was what Helms was attacking when he cudgled Jim Hunt, repeatedly, for taking money from gay groups. The Helms campaign bought blocks of ads in a local tabloid called The Landmark, funding a steady campaign of claims that Hunt had made common cause with the "faggots, perverts, sexual deviates of this nation." Still, too subtle. The Landmark hit paydirt when it bolstered a whisper campaign in the state about Hunt's own sexuality.
I can understand the argument for the "Hands" ad: Gantt, after all, had benefitted from racial preferences on a mid-80s business deal. I'd love to hear the conservative or libertarian case for letting your political foe be smeared as a "fag." (And it's not like this type of smear stopped in 1984.)
The fact that almost no one on the right even mentioned Helms' disgusting, murderous homophobia after his death is telling. It was as deep as his racism. Can you imagine if a leading politician had said about Jews what Helms said about gays? And yet the president simply ignores it and calls Helms "decent." He wanted to throw me in jail for my relationship and deport me for being HIV-positive. That's decent?