Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Setting the Record Straight


Media coverage of the controversy over CBS' The Reagans miniseries -- and an AIDS-related line in the script -- has largely ignored the reality of the Reagan Administration's record on AIDS. And in light of today's announcement that CBS will not broadcast the miniseries, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has joined prominent AIDS organizations in calling on journalists to expose the right's attempt to obfuscate the history of the Reagan Administration's AIDS policy and undermine current federal AIDS research.

"Media have repeatedly failed to challenge Reagan supporters' revisionism efforts, and they've failed to provide commentary by scientists, historians and AIDS experts who can detail the true history of the Reagan Administration's policy response to HIV and AIDS," said GLAAD Executive Director Joan M. Garry.

Though one line in The Reagans script that has received considerable attention (where Reagan says of AIDS victims, "They that live in sin shall die in sin") is clearly fictionalized, the broader reality it attempts to convey is evident in the history of the federal government's inadequate response to the AIDS crisis under the Reagan Administration.

Reagan did not publicly utter the word "AIDS" during the first six years of his administration (his first public mention of the disease was made to the Third International AIDS Conference on May 31, 1987). The Kaiser Family Foundation's Daily HIV/AIDS Report for June 7, 2001 (see ARTICLES & RESOURCES below) also notes that the San Diego Union Tribune quoted Reagan as telling the conference, "Final judgment is up to God."

In a 2001 speech at the Kaiser Family Foundation's National Symposium on U.S. AIDS Policy, Dr. C. Everett Koop, Reagan's surgeon general, said that due to "intradepartmental politics" he was cut out of all AIDS discussions for the first five years of the Reagan Administration -- and that "because transmission of AIDS was understood primarily in the homosexual population and in those who abused intravenous drugs, the advisors to the President, [sic] took the stand, they are only getting what they justly deserve." (For a link to the complete text of Koop's speech, see ARTICLES & RESOURCES below.)