New York Times erases AIDS

The NYTimes begins its obituary of Ronald Reagan today with a three-column headline on the front page and it continues inside for a total of four more full-page sheets uninterrrupted by advertising. The size of this death notice may be unprecedented, but the most newsworthy item is what's missing.

The words AIDS or HIV do not appear once.

This is beyond politics; it's criminal neglect, if not part of a deliberate agenda, from the newspaper which was itself so guilty in ignoring or mishandling accounts of the plague during the Reagan years. Now that same newspaper would have us regard as serious journalism its account of the life of our second-most-disastrous president, the man whose administration, in surviving its general malfeasance and treasons, marked the final disintegration of American democracy.

We won't buy it.

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The New York Times' obituary for Ronald Reagan omits the words 'AIDS' and 'HIV' altogether. Read More

Wow, that's just unforgiveable. I work for a newspaper, and that's the one thing I kept bringing up over and over again this weekend when people asked me what I remember about Regan.
As I'm only 27, I really don't remember too much, but I said the one thing I know about is the fact that he wasn't able to say the words AIDS, HIV or gay until the last few years of his presidency.
What a slap in the face.

I'm so angry. If i see one more news story talking about what a hero he was or how "beloved by america" I think my head will explode. I can't stand that when HE got a terminal disease that robbed his mind and dignity, everyone felt oh so sorry for him and his family, oh the cruel irony. There's a part of me that wants to sit back smugly and say "well, you got what you deserved!" But that's just the anger talking, and I'm better than that.

Reagan NEVER said the words gay or AIDS as president.

Never said AIDS? You've had a little too much purple punch, my friend. And now for the facts: Reagan was the first president to have an openly gay couple sleep over in the White House. He and Nancy were no strangers to male homosexual company. Reagan also appointed the first woman to the Supreme Court, and in Anthony Kennedy, gave birth to the judicial father of the gay rights revolution. Biographer Lou Cannon wrote that Reagan was "repelled by the aggressive public crusades against homosexual life styles which became a staple of right wing politics in the late 1970s." In 1978, Reagan put his career on the line opposing the Briggs Initiative in California that would have barred gay teachers from working in the public high school system. In an op-ed at the time, Reagan wrote:
"Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual's sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child's teachers do not really influence this."
Writings of Larry Kramer at the time show people most at risk were aware - mostly too late - that unprotected sex had become fatal in the late 1970s and still was. Read Randy Shilts' "And The Band Played On," to see how some of the resistance to those warnings came from within the gay movement itself.
An instruction from Ronald Reagan to wear condoms wouldn't have accomplished much. As for research, we didn't even know what HIV was until 1983. Nevertheless, the Reagan presidency spent some $5.7 billion on HIV in its two terms - not chump change. The resources increased by 450 percent in 1983, 134 percent in 1984, 99 percent the next year and 148 percent the year after. By 1986, Reagan had endorsed a large prevention and research effort and declared in his budget message that AIDS "remains the highest public health priority of the Department of Health and Human Services." In September 1985, Reagan said:
"[I]ncluding what we have in the budget for '86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS in addition to what I'm sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it'll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there's no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer."
But the sad truth is also that there was never going to be an easy answer to HIV in the Reagan years. Throwing even more money at research in those days would not have helped much. Anthony Fauci's NIH, goaded by heroes like Larry Kramer, was already pushing for focus and resources; FDA red tape was loosened considerably; and the painfully slow scientific process continued. The fact that we got revolutionary drugs in trials by the early 1990s was itself an heroic scientific achievement - arguably the most miraculous progress in a medical emergency since the polio vaccine. Should Reagan have done more? Yes. Were people like Bill Bennett and Gary Bauer responsible for delaying a real prevention response because only gays were dying? You bet. But was Reagan ultimately responsible for so many tragic, early deaths? No. HIV was.

Stop posting that stupid National Review article! He has a number of innacuracies, including making up quotes from Reagan's 1986 State of the Union Address.

Text of 1986 State of the Union Address - no mention of AIDS:

The quote "[I]ncluding what we have in the budget for '86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS..." isn't made up, nor was it part of the State of the Union. It was told to reporters on Sept. 17, 1985. I was simply debunking the myth perpetuated by Mr. Green implying Reagan was a homophobe.

Do you have a source for that? I was merely pointing out that the NRO article mentions a quote which doesn't exist, and wondering if there is actual documentation for other things in the article.

This stuff is trivia anyway.

The spending on AIDS was done because people in Congress fought hard for it, and Reagan is some kind of hero for not vetoing it? As I have pointed out in a comment on my site, much of the total spending figures during the Reagan years was non-discretionary - Medicare, Medicaid, and SSI. I don't think he should be applauded merely for not cutting those people off.

Presidents new confrence, sept 17, 1985
Q. Mr. President, the Nation's best-known AIDS scientist says the time has come now to boost existing research into what he called a minor moonshot program to attack this AIDS epidemic that has struck fear into the Nation's health workers and even its schoolchildren. Would you support a massive government research program against AIDS like the one that President Nixon launched against cancer?

The President. I have been supporting it for more than 4 years now. It's been one of the top priorities with us, and over the last 4 years, and including what we have in the budget for '86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS in addition to what I'm sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it'll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there's no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer.

Q. If I could follow up, sir. The scientist who talked about this, who does work for the Government, is in the National Cancer Institute. He was referring to your program and the increase that you proposed as being not nearly enough at this stage to go forward and really attack the problem.

The President. I think with our budgetary constraints and all, it seems to me that $126 million in a single year for research has got to be something of a vital contribution

Rachel, I have no idea what your point is, because the facts are that this was the very first instance in which Reagan was heard to use the word "AIDS", and he did not publicly address the issue on his own until almost nine months later, half-way through the last year of his presidency. When he did, on May 31, 1987, at the Third International Conference on AIDS in Washington, over 36,000 Americans had already been diagnosed with AIDS and some 21,000 had died. This was nothing like the urgency which characterized the 1976 "Legionnaires Disease" scenario, when 34 people were killed by a newly-discovered bacterial infection. By the time Reagan spoke in 1987 AIDS had spread to 113 countries and there were more than 50,000 reported cases.

From very early on it was clear that AIDS was an epidemic; it could have been minimized or contained. Reagan was not the only fool who prevented this, but he was the one with the greatest power to accomplish it.

Reagan himself had nothing to do with proposing the woefully-inadequate (an inadequacy we recognized even at the time) funding which actually was authorized by Congress during the years of his administration. I'm quoting from Ethan Jacobs writing in "Bay WIndows" the month Reagan died: "According to press reports Reagan requested $85 million in 1986 for AIDS research, but Congress bumped that figure up to $244 million. Reagan unsuccessfully tried to rescind $50 million of that figure, according to the Boston Globe, but he ultimately agreed to Congress' figure. At the time the [Boston] Globe reported that AIDS patients were dying at a rate of about 80 per week.

You will also note that our President did not answer the question.