Washington Post Critic Resurrects Claim that Reagan Neglected AIDS Crisis

Posted: Feb 19, 2018 12:30 PM
Washington Post Critic Resurrects Claim that Reagan Neglected AIDS Crisis

Washington Post art critic Philip Kennicott matter-of-factly wrote that President Reagan neglected the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. He made the claim in his recent review of a new exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.

It ends with the economic crash of 1987 and the age of AIDS, a disease cruelly exacerbated by the sudden right turn in American politics to a sunny, mindless optimism that privileged consumption over compassion, selfishness over the social contract, and American power over American idealism. Artistically, and culturally, we are directly descended from the greed and hypocrisy of the 1980s — a fact that this exhibition emphasizes and perhaps implicitly endorses.

The Guerrilla Girls managed to use the techniques of advertising effectively to challenge the misogyny of the art world; so, too, the artists of Gran Fury, who created the iconic “Silence=Death” logo to call attention to the Reagan administration’s purposeful neglect of the AIDS crisis. (Newsbusters)

The Washington Post is hardly the first outlet to make this charge. In its report on a documentary called "When AIDS Was Funny," Vanity Fair said the administration's lackluster response to the epidemic remains a "stain" on their reputation. The short film suggests that the Reagan White House repeatedly ignored the crisis and mocked reporters who wanted answers. Some critics have fumed that Reagan never even mentioned the epidemic for the first seven years of his presidency.

“Reagan did not even mention the word AIDS,” according to Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, “until the disease was impossible to ignore and his friend Rock Hudson had died from it.”

Yet, if you take a look at spending, it was clearly on his mind.

The administration increased AIDS funding requests from $8 million in 1982 to $26.5 million in 1983, which Congress bumped to $44 million, a number that doubled every year thereafter during Reagan’s presidency, author Carl M. Cannon explains.

Another Reagan rumor was circulated last month after Trump's White House doctor Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson failed to quash speculation that the 40th president started to have Alzheimer's while he was still in office. The Reagan Foundation quickly debunked that suggestion.