With Gay Pride season in full swing this month, it’s time for yet another round of Reagan-bashing, courtesy of angry, left-wing gay activists.
In this year’s episode, the White House invited a delegation of gay Philadelphians to a June 15 Pride celebration — the first ever at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. To the sounds of the Marine Corps Band, several of these guests stank up the place by giving the finger to the official portrait of the late Ronald Wilson Reagan. They proudly captured this incident on camera, as the photos demonstrate.
If Hart and the other finger waggers aimed to make friends and influence people, they evidently failed.
“While the White House does not control the conduct of guests at receptions, we certainly expect that all attendees conduct themselves in a respectful manner,” declared White House spokesman Shin Inouye. “Most all do. These individuals clearly did not. Behavior like this doesn’t belong anywhere, least of all in the White House.” This repugnant stunt notwithstanding, a powerful myth endures among many gay Americans and also on the broader left.
Their story: Ronald Reagan passionately hated homosexuals. Presumably he high-fived his equally homophobic advisers in the Oval Office as gay people dropped dead in the streets from AIDS while begging in vain for the glacier-hearted Reagan to do something — anything at all — to address the AIDS crisis.
Like body armor, this humongous lie seems impervious even to .44-caliber facts. Nonetheless, perhaps one of these bullet points will penetrate this still-impermeable untruth:
As part of his policy of supposed inaction, Ronald Reagan signed $5.73 billion in U.S.-government anti-AIDS outlays. That’s $10.6 billion in today’s dollars. Indeed, Reagan’s signature inaugurated federal action on AIDS research and treatment:
As the chart above confirms, federal anti-AIDS spending grew dramatically throughout Reagan’s term. The $8 million that Reagan approved in 1982 rocketed to $2.3 billion in 1989. The average annual increase in federal expenditures on HIV/AIDS under Reagan was 128.92 percent. If he had been happy to watch gays succumb to AIDS, he surely could have kept that growth rate somewhere south of 125 percent.
These figures did not erupt from Ann Coulter’s calculator. Rather, they are from a March 31, 1998, Congressional Research Service study by Judith Johnson titled “AIDS Funding for Federal Government Programs: FY1981–FY1999.”
Libertarians, conservatives, and liberals can debate the wisdom and scope of federal spending in every area, including AIDS. But only someone with cinder blocks over his eyes could examine these taxpayer dollars and claim that Ronald Reagan did anything other than actively deploy federal resources to combat AIDS — particularly when the disease’s cause was a mystery, even to scientists who lost years of sleep trying to vanquish it. While AIDS thankfully has gone from a death sentence to a manageable ailment, there still is no cure for this condition, more than 30 years after it emerged.
The Reagan-inaction-on-AIDS mythology also holds that he never even uttered the acronym AIDS until 1987. While one could argue that Reagan should have said something sooner, he first addressed AIDS no later than September 17, 1985 — at least 15 months before his critics claim he did. Rather than whisper this word to some obscure correspondent, Reagan told a White House news conference:
Including what we have in the budget for ’86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS, in addition to what I’m sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it’ll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there’s no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer.
Reagan spoke up for gay equality as early as 1978, when he came out against Proposition 6, a ballot initiative that would have dismissed California teachers who “advocated” homosexuality, even off-campus. Reagan railed against the referendum through a statement that September and in his nationally syndicated newspaper column.
“Whatever else it is,” Reagan wrote, “homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual’s sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child’s teachers do not really influence this.” Reagan added: “Since the measure does not restrict itself to the classroom, every aspect of a teacher’s personal life could presumably come under suspicion. What constitutes ‘advocacy’ of homosexuality? Would public opposition to Proposition 6 by a teacher — should it pass — be considered advocacy?”
That November 7 — thanks at least partially to Reagan’s opposition — Proposition 6 went down, 41.6 percent to 58.4.
Finally, anyone else who still considers Reagan an anti-gay bigot should consider Robert G. Kaiser’s news story in the March 18, 1984, Washington Post.
“The Reagans are also tolerant about homosexual men,” Kaiser wrote. “Their interior decorator, Ted Graber, who oversaw the redecoration of the White House, spent a night in the Reagans’ private White House quarters with his male lover, Archie Case, when they came to Washington for Nancy Reagan’s 60th birthday party — a fact confirmed for the press by Mrs. Reagan’s press secretary.”
What a homophobe.
Remember: All of this happened in Ronald Reagan’s White House, 28 years before Barack Obama evolved on gay marriage.
— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.