Ronald Reagan’s ugliest scandal

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Ronald Reagan is remembered, in an almost God-like status, by conservatives. Reagan was an American icon of the silver screen of what a “real man” was astride his faithful pony. Ronald Reagan was a cowboy, a Christian, and a conservative. He rode into DC as a hero of the conservative movement to return America to its moral and fiscal roots. Reagan, remembered differently by LGBT, was a murderer.

The same year that Reagan would take office, 1981, a strange disease was killing otherwise healthy young gay men from California and New York. By 1982, the Centers for Disease Control had a name for the disease, AIDS. The New York Times would announce on the front page in 1983 about the epidemic. By the end of 1983, there were 2,000 deaths and 4,700 reported cases of AIDS. CDC central coordinator, John Bennett, would reject a plan to combat AIDS, telling the plan’s author, “Don, they rejected the plan. They said, ‘Look pretty and do as little as you can.”

October 1982, in a press briefing, Reagan’s press secretary was asked about the “gay plague.” The press secretary said, “I don’t have it.” Congress came together in 1982 to hear about AIDS. California House Rep Bill Dannemeyer read graphic descriptions of gay sex on the House floor. Not until 1985, the same day Rock Hudson died of AIDS, did Reagan address it by saying it was a “top priority” to combat AIDS.

In October of 1985, Reagan asked for 120 million for AIDS research. Congress approved 190 million. Not until 1987 did the country start putting policy into place. When confronted about his homophobia, conservatives would point out, “His interiror decorator is gay and he and his male lover stayed one night in the White House.”

By the time Reagan left office, 89,343 had died. So as we celebrate Reagan’s birthday, remember the years and years of inaction on the death of these mostly gay men and thank the gods he had a gay interior decorator.

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