Alum Marc Short, ‘92, returns to White House


Marc Short, ’92, speaks in Hillel 101 as part of a Washington Term speaker series. Photo by MacKenzie Van Meter, ’22.

Washington and Lee University alumnus Marc Short, ‘92, visited campus just before news broke that he was returning to the White House as Vice President Mike Pence’s new chief of staff.

Short was the first speaker for the Washington Term series, “From the Colonnade to the Capital, and Back” in February. He spoke to a room full of students in Hillel House about his experience serving as director of legislative affairs for the Trump administration from January 2017 to summer 2018.

He worked as an adviser to Pence, and spoke about the advice he gave Pence before he joined Trump’s ticket during the 2016 election cycle. 

“You will be paired with somebody who will say things you can’t defend,” Short said he told Pence at the time. “Run as fast as you can.”

Olivia Luzzio, ‘21, asked Short during the question and answer session about his experience with the university’s honor system with his work in the Trump administration.

Short said he wished public officials were held to the honor system’s standard.

“I wish that the administration’s record was better, but I also believe that the president has done good things,” he said. “Politics is a messy process.”

Short added that he still applies the honor system to his own life and appreciates it. 

“We’re a fallen race,” Short said. “People are not perfect and we all make mistakes.” 

Brian Alexander, politics professor and the program head for Washington Term, said he organized the alumni speaker series to encourage discussion across the aisle.

“My hope is that we see through dialogue and engagement – in what I think is a friendly and an open environment – that we can learn from people we agree or disagree with,” Alexander said. “Hopefully, we can find some commonality. But, in a climate that is very divisive, I think that it is very important to begin with dialogue with people that we may not see eye to eye with. There are people who you may not agree with, but the best thing you can do is to talk to them. That’s what I hope this provides for people of any ideological perspective.”

Short said he believed Trump won the 2016 presidential election because the American people, especially in the Midwest, feel out of touch with what goes on inside the White House.

“There’s something [about Trump] that those of us in D.C. are missing,” he said.

As a student, Short was an editor for The Spectator. During his senior year, he wrote an article in the conservative publication’s March 1992 edition called “AIDS & the Heterosexual,” recently reported by the Daily Beast. 

Short wrote about “Safer Sex Week” on campus and the national dialogue surrounding HIV/AIDS, referring to gay men as “sodomites” and pursuing “perverted lifestyles.” He argued that anal intercourse causes AIDS, rather than functioning as one potential form of transmission of the viral disease.

His article was in response to an article, “HIV-infected Alumnus Pushes Playing it Safe” included in Feb. 6, 1992 edition of the Ring-tum Phi, which featured an interview with Edwin Wright, ‘78. Wright shared his experience as an HIV-positive, gay man spending his last days advocating for the prevention of AIDS/HIV and the support of those are HIV-positive.

“‘I just want to help prevent it from happening [to others] so someone can live,’ Wright was quoted saying in the story. ‘There isn’t any reason for anyone else to die.’”

Wright died in December 1993 at the age of 38 due to complications from the disease, according to the Hartford Courant.

In his response, Short wrote that he felt sympathy for Wright and others impacted.

“But that 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 wrote.

Will Tanner ‘21, the Spectator’s new editor-in-chief, said he hadn’t heard about the article until the Daily Beast contacted him for an interview. He said some alumni Spectator writers have brought it to their attention since news broke.

Tanner said the article is not anything that The Spectator would justify publishing today.

“We tend to stick to conservatism in the school and op-eds about national politics, rather just random articles like that that don’t seem to have a clear purpose,” he said.

Tanner added that it shows that inflammatory language, such as Short’s use of the term “sodomite,” can be hurtful.

“I think it shows how education helps,” he said. “You kind of need to look at that article and others like it in the context of fear about the situation.”