Reagan and Gays
Nancy Reagan just died. Many people loved her but she was lampooned for the “Just Say No” to drugs campaign. She was a strong supporter for her husband and his policies, Ronald Reagan.
Ronald Reagan as Homophobe
Ronald Reagan is remembered less than fondly by the LGBT community who were living and survived during the Reagan presidency when AIDS first started spreading and turned into a crisis. Reagan remained mute on the topic for years while thousands died. Because of his attitude and lack of leadership, The Advocate named him the Homophobe of the Year in 1985 and made the list many times. He did not mention AIDS in a speech until 1987.
Did Nancy Push Ronald Reagan?
Some have given Nancy Reagan credit for pushing her husband to be more active about AIDS. He did finally support some research on AIDS. Some have said that the death of Rock Hudson was a turning point.
Rock Hudson Story
Hudson wanted President Reagan to help him with the French government. The reason was that he was in a French hospital and wanted a new treatment but couldn’t get it because he wasn’t a French citizen. He asked the Reagans to intercede on his behalf. Nancy sent a telegram saying that they could do nothing because it would be showing favoritism. But she did let the press know that Ronald had called Rock Hudson.
Gahl Burt who was the White House social secretary today said that Nancy Reagan had called Elizabeth Taylor and asked her to become involved with AIDS advocacy. However, in 1992, Vanity Fair had an article saying that Taylor had to repeatedly approach the Reagans about AIDS. In fact, it said that Nancy’s first response was very frosty. So even at this late date, the Reagan White House is still doing spin on the news. In fact, it said that when President Reagan spoke to Rock Hudson he wouldn’t even use the word AIDS, calling it hepatitis which was the original cover story when Hudson first got sick.
A historian, Allida Black says that Nancy should be given credit for pushing Ronald and the Secretary of Health about AIDS after the death of Rock Hudson and another friend of theirs. However, she pointed out that if it had been white children dying, there would have been action much sooner.
In an interview, her son Ron Reagan said that since the first people to get AIDS were gays and IV drug users, neither of which were typically Republican constituents, it wasn’t taken seriously. It was something the other party was making a big deal about. How sad.