The Real Legacy of Ronald Reagan And The Murder Of Gay Men In The Name Of “God”

Happy Birthday Ronald Reagan

As Republicans and Tea Party members remember and celebrate the revisionist life history of Ronald and now Nancy Reagan  Let us, the friends, the family, and also the victims of Ronald Reagan’s bigotry and homophobia remember the TRUTH and the REAL legacy of genocide, war mongering, and poverty that he left behind all in the name of “God”  and never let it be forgotten.

Ronald Reagan was and always should be remembered as the President who helped bring back poverty to the masses, the President who changed American foreign policy, by selling arms to Iran, and forwarding the profits to right-wing Central American dictators to help fund their death squads, and most of all as the President who is personally responsible for the deaths of thousands who died of AIDS and  literally wiped out almost an entire generation of gay men.

Ronald Reagan deliberately ignored one of the deadliest diseases in history of the world which is now affecting over 70 million people around the globe all  in the name of God, bigotry and homophobia.

In 1981 with the emergence of the AIDS epidemic also came the emergence of the Christian Right, who Reagan ushered into power and seized the moment that AIDS was a sign of God’s abhorrence for gay men. . Reagan, who saw the first signs of the AIDS epidemic in 1981, his first year in office, . said “maybe the Lord brought down the plague because illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.”

Ronald Reagan may have done laudable things but he was also a monster and, in my estimation, responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler. He is one of the persons most responsible for allowing the plague of AIDS to grow from 41 cases in 1981 to over 70 million today. He refused to even say the word out loud for the first seven years of his presidency and when he did speak about it it was with disdain. He was, in the words of his domestic policy adviser, Gary Bauer, “irrevocably opposed to anything having to do with homosexuality” (personal communication with me in his White House office in April of 1983). As I write in my book The Tragedy of Today’s Gays (Penguin, 2005), “I can locate no work of any urgency, or indeed, much work at all, on AIDS” during his entire presidency, thus allowing many millions of gay men all over the world to be exposed to the virus without so much as a warning from anyone in his government. Those of us on the front lines can attest to this stone wall that was unbreachable. – Larry Kramer

AIDS research was chronically under-funded in the beginning of the outbreak when money for research and treatment were the most needed.  When doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health asked for more funding for their work on AIDS, they were routinely denied.  Between June 1981 and May 1982 the CDC spent less than $1 million on AIDS and $9 million on Legionnaire’s Disease. At that point more than 1,000 of the 2,000 reported AIDS cases resulted in death; there were fewer than 50 deaths from Legionnaire’s Disease. This drastic lack of funding would continue through the Reagan years.

Newly unearthed audio of Ronald Reagan’s White House Press Secretary in daily meetings with the Press Corps from that period puts a face on the homophobic Reagan administration and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that because AIDS affected mostly gay men that the Regan administration could not be bothered and did could care less that American citizens dying because of their homophobic bigotry.

It would not be until  October 1987 when pushed that Reagan would publicly speak about the AIDS epidemic in a major policy address. By the end of that year, 59,572 AIDS cases had been reported and 27,909 of those women and men had died. He and his administration did almost nothing during the first seven years of the epidemic.

In 1986, Reagan ordered Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to prepare a major government report on AIDS. Critics attacked Reagan for ordering the report on the same day he submitted requests to reduce the AIDS budget, according to the Globe. Koop’s report called for mandatory sex education for children as early as elementary school, but Reagan’s education secretary, William Bennett, and his undersecretary of education, Gary Bauer, strenuously opposed those efforts, calling for abstinence-oriented education.

With AIDS research being underfunded community education and prevention programs were routinely denied federal funding and would have been even more so if Regan had had his way. Only when pushed did Reagan offer any assistance.

Finally in 1986 Reagan requested $85 million for AIDS research, but Congress horrified at the low number bumped that figure up to $244 million only to have Reagan then unsuccessfully try to rescind $50 million of that figure, according to the Boston Globe, but he ultimately agreed to Congress’ figure.  In 1987, Reagan proposed cutting the research budget for AIDS down to $214 million. Congress again responded dramatically against Reagen by raising it to about $400 million.

The Boston Globe reported that in 1986 – 1987 that AIDS patients were dying at a rate of about 80 per week.

As Barbra Streisand put it in an address to an AIDS Project Los Angeles fundraiser in 1992: “I will never forgive my fellow actor Ronald Reagan for his genocidal denial of the illness’ existence, for his refusal to even utter the word AIDS for seven years, and for blocking adequate funding for research and education which could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”

One of the  most memorable and disgusting Reagan AIDS moments was at the 1986 centenary re-dedication of the Statue of Liberty. The Reagan’s were there sitting next to the French Prime Minister and his wife, Francois and Danielle Mitterrand. Bob Hope was on stage entertaining the all-star audience. In the middle of a series of one-liners, Hope quipped, “I just heard that the Statue of Liberty has AIDS, but she doesn’t know if she got it from the mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Fairy.” As the television camera panned the audience, the Mitterrand’s looked appalled. The Ronald and Nancy Reagan were laughing.

By the end of 1989, 115,786 women and men had been diagnosed with AIDS in the United States—more then 70,000 of them had died.

This is Ronald Reagan’s TRUE legacy, and everyday may we never forget it and remember those who died because of it.

Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, writer, blogger and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Advocate, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, Raw Story, and The Huffington Post

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26 Responses

  1. Well he was one of the idiots that thought straight people can not get AIDS

    Badge Society LGBT Forum

  2. Kris Gates says:

    Not to be contrarian, but much of Larry Kramer’s story has been pretty well debunked. Could Reagan have handled it better? Sure, but it was not as bad as Kramer (and thus, this article) makes it out to be. You can read more from a fellow liberal here and see how he factually debunks Kramer’s story fact by fact: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/06/01/ronald_reagan_and_aids_correcting_the_record_122806.html

    • Steven Pope says:

      As one who lived through the Reagan era and watched friends die, your lack of disdain is reprehensible. Politically aware, most LGBT activist of the eighties, such as myself, were fully aware of The Reagan Administration’s complete lack of compassion and homophobia. It was in our faces DAILY. Debunk a cookie and clean those dishes from the kitchen sink, as your fodder for erasing the truth is certainly not liberal nor warranted.

      • Jason Rushton says:

        Well said Steve, I could’nt beleive what the person had said. Thank you for your battles through the 80s & 90s so that people like himi can have any sort of life.

  3. lazioroamer says:

    I am really surprised at the bad taste of the Bob Hope joke as he was very good in expressing his dismay at Anita Bryant’s anti Gay
    Save Our Children rant.
    He was very pro-gay in that

  4. J Chris Henry says:

    Kris Gates: I get the impression from your post that you are young (under 30) and/or from the south or mid-west. I WAS THERE, NYC in the 1980s. Between my work, church & (pre-internet) social circles I lost 27 friends to AIDS between ’85-’88.
    I joined a group tired of watching those we cared for languishing away hiding in their apartments because of the stares of horror they’d get at the store. Some died & weren’t found for several days.
    There was no treatment, doctors didn’t want to diagnose AIDS because of the stigma associated.
    We set up an all-volunteer AIDS Hospice House to make sure nobody died alone.
    The AIDS Crisis WAS THAT BAD.

    • So is Reagan to blame for people not wearing condoms? What about blame of leaders of other countries? What did they do? Why aren’t they held accountable?

      • Will Kohler says:

        Steven. no one knew about condom’s or even how to prevent then. That’s what research money was needed for. Also with am incubation period of up to two years at that time many were infected before anyone knew what it was. that’s why money for research was needed as soon as it was discovered.

  5. Scooby Don't says:

    Leftist swine are more pathetic than ever. Who cares what Reagan said? He surely said “Say No to Drugs” . How many slobs listened to that? Reagan has been out of office for 27 years. What’s your excuse now?

    • Steven Pope says:

      Disgusting. On behalf of those I’ve known who lost their lives to this disease, gain an education and try to be a better human, for your descriptive language “leftist” shows a complete lack of empathy, compassion, reasoning, and ultimately— intelligence.

  6. J Chris Henry says:

    Scooby Don’t: Reagan’s legacy sill resonates today primarily because he has been exalted to near sainthood as the model of Conservatism (regardless how deserved). As current Republican politicians attempt to be the most Reaganesque, we still hear the echoes of Ronny’s disdain toward fellow Americans.

  7. John says:

    Steven G. In regards to your remark, there was certainly a lack of knowledge about transmission for many years, and I would not put the blame for transmission on anyone. But what is being discussed here is the acknowledgment of the crisis and the U.S. being a leader in research and awareness. I can’t believe Nancy’s psychics didn’t warn her how devistating the crisis was and would become. I would like to say, “Keep fighting my brave sisters and brothers, you have the courage of champions. My love and support to you.”

  8. BruceMacDonald says:

    My dear and lovely first husband died of HIV in 1988. Whenever people get all dewy eyed for Reagan, I remember Sam. Two months before he died, he saw Reagan on TV from his hospital bed, pointed to him and said, “I’m dying bcause of him.” Sad memory.

  9. eldred boze says:

    Those of us who were active gays during this period remember the speculation as to what caused the disease. A germ transmitted by kissing, poppers, s and m,bottoms only,tops only, germs in gay baths. Of course God sent it to rid the earth of homosexuals while hetero Africans were meant to die because they were black. I will never forget the atrocity of the Reagan administration and the cries for deportation of Gays to concentration camps by the religious Hitlers, still present in our wonderful politicians today.

  10. john a says:

    J Chris Henry, your comment brought tears to my eyes. thank you and others like you for all the good you have done. but i also have to confess, bob hope’s joke made me laugh.

    • marc s cohen says:

      John a: a joke is designed with a certain set-up and a certain rhythm that makes us want to laugh at the punch-line even before we realize its contents. So, the fact that the joke made you laugh does not necessarily mean you condoned the sentiment but rather that you were caught in the little trap of a verbal technique. The responsibility for preempting such a reaction is that of the joke-teller who must edit out any inappropriate material. Reagan would be considered first cause in not acting responsibly, and Bob Hope would be considered second cause because of his insensitivity. You might be considered third cause but yours was only a momentary reaction. Shame on Reagan for not addressing the crisis in a timely manner and shame on Hope for his stupid joke. And shame on them both for making you laugh.

  11. JneDoe says:

    FINALLY someone tells it like it is! THANK YOU!!!!!

  12. Sheldon says:

    Dude, I really want to take your writing seriously, but if you’re not even going to proof-read it? “In 1981 with the emergence of the AIDS epidemic also came the emergence of the Christian Right, who which Reagen ushered into power…”

    • Will Kohler says:

      Done and thank you. This is a one man gig I do for free because other LGBT media is very lame and biased I have no editors and proofreaders like JMG, Towleroad and Queeerty, Bear that in mind and thanks for pointing that out.

  13. tom says:

    Will Kohler wrote: “Ronald Reagan was and always should be remembered as the President who helped bring back poverty to the masses,”

    [Right. the longest period of economic growth in 40 years. Unemployment dropped to 4%, the dollar doubled in value against the Mark, Pound and Yen and Jimmy Carter’s stagflation finally died, with home interest rates dropping from 18% to 7%. If you couldn’t find a good paying job you weren’t trying.]

    Will Kohler wrote: the President who changed American foreign policy, by selling arms to Iran,

    Bullshit. Carter sold the Shah F14s and KC135 tankers, radar and anti-aircraft missiles. The Iranians took over the US embassy under Carter, taking personnel hostage. The hostages were released under Reagan. For those who get their education from Hollywood, watch ‘Argo.’]

    Will Kohler wrote: “and forwarding the profits to right-wing Central American dictators to help fund their death squads,”

    [From Iran? Will needs a fact checker]

    Will Kohler wrote: “and most of all as the President who is personally responsible for the deaths of thousands who died of AIDS and literally wiped out almost an entire generation of gay men.”

    [Yeah, that’s what presidents do. The author overstates the case, as he is prone to do.]
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President%27s_Commission_on_the_HIV_Epidemic

    • Will Kohler says:

      By the end of Reagan’s two terms, the national debt had more than doubled.

      Bank regulations were eased. In 1982, the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act was passed, which removed restrictions on loan-to-value ratios for Savings and Loan banks. Reagan’s budget cut also reduced regulatory staff at the Federal Home Loan Bank Board.

      As a result, banks invested in risky real estate ventures (sound familiar?). Reagan’s deregulation and budget cutting contributed to the Savings and Loan Crisis of 1989.

      Under Reagan expansion of stockownership rose to nearly 30% of American upper class households but still left more than two-thirds of the country shut out of direct benefits from the great bull market of the Age of Reagan. For the 70% of American households that still lacked any stake at all in the stock market, the Reagan economy was not quite so lustrous as it seemed to those enjoying the fruits of rising equity values. Real wages, which had increased steadily from 1945 to 1972 but then stalled through the stagflation era, remained flat through the 1980s as well. Unemployment declined from the atrocious highs of the late 1970s and early 1980s, but the high-paying blue-collar industrial jobs that had been the mainstay of the midcentury economy continued to disappear. (It’s important to note that this process began long before Reagan came into office, however.) In short, the economic outlook for middle- and working-class families who depended on wages for their incomes was still significantly worse than it had been during the 1950s and ’60s.

      As the financial sector displaced industrial manufacturing under Reagan as the dominant economic force in American society, the gains from growth came to accrue almost entirely to those with major investments in the market, while individuals dependent solely upon wages and salaries found it harder and harder to get ahead. During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the wealthiest one-fifth of American households (those who naturally owned the most stock) saw their incomes increase by 14%. Meanwhile, the poorest one-fifth (who presumably owned no stock) endured an income decline of 24%,

  14. Kathrin says:

    ah yes, I remember ronald ray-guns. How did he become a hero?

  15. judy says:

    Glad someone had the guts to post this.

  16. rantlogic says:

    I was a young teen in the 80’s and remember all of this…And yet, out of those tragedies also came something else–Tolerance and Acceptance. Yes, there were horrible people calling for concentration camps, but the absolute horror most Americans felt at the idea, and their sympathy for the deaths, caused an awakening of our conscious in the matter of homosexuality. I firmly believe that, if not for the Reagan’s reprehensible behavior during that dark period, gay acceptance and marriage would not exist today.We children were not blind and deaf at the dinner table and sitting around the television; we saw and heard more than our parents probably wished. And it set in us a determination that this injustice would not be allowed when We were the Adults and in Charge. It set a fire under the gay community that burned hotter every year until equality and justice were finally in sight. I understand the hatred of Reagan and his policies; I hear what the author is saying; I’m still sad over the deaths of so many. But we took an invaluable lesson from this tragedy so long ago and will continue to fight for gay rights in the future so that it never happens again.

  17. Bob says:

    Please explain what muslim terrorist, that the left supports, worldwide are doing that isn’t uglier, crueler and more perverted than anything in this artical. Not to mention what they do to gays, even though many of them are, and their stand on women’s rights.

  1. December 1, 2015

    […] One of the most memorable and disgusting Reagan AIDS moments happened at the 1986 centenary re dedication of the Statue of Liberty. The Reagan’s were there sitting next to the French Prime Minister and his wife, Francois and Danielle Mitterrand. Bob Hope was on stage entertaining the all-star audience. In the middle of a series of one-liners, Hope quipped, “I just heard that the Statue of Liberty has AIDS, but she doesn’t know if she got it from the mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Fairy.” As the television camera panned the audience, the Mitterrand’s looked appalled. The Reagan’s were laughing. […]

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