“Rock Hudson Dying of AIDS.”
February 3, 2015 5:07 AM   Subscribe

Buzzfeed reports on Rock Hudson's last days, and the Reagan administration's response.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (57 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm sure Nancy was just following her astrologer's advice.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:51 AM on February 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


Seriously, how many lives has Nancy Reagan ruined? Tens of millions, or hundreds of millions?
posted by Sphinx at 5:52 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Many, but she also saved millions by advising her husband to build the INF and START nuclear weapons treaties.

Seriously: Ronald Reagan WITHOUT Nancy would have been worse for the world. She's a mixed bag.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:05 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I will never understand why that third-rate actor (and his batshit crazy wife) was awarded canonization.
posted by fredludd at 6:15 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can't believe she just said "No."
posted by Renoroc at 6:16 AM on February 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


She's a mixed bag.

I mean, she should get some credit for being the first woman president, at least in the second term.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:17 AM on February 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


Interesting read; this took place about the time I was in medical school, so in addition to to seeing the media response to AIDS, I saw a number of actual AIDS patients and how frustrating it was for everyone involved that there was this new disease that seemingly appeared out of nowhere, was almost certainly fatal (although there are still survivors from that time), and had no good treatment options. (It is worth noting that despite good treatments now, there is still no cure.)

It seems like a reasonable response to say that the Reagans wanted to avoid doing personal favors for people, but the article makes that seem like a handy excuse; whether that was actually the case or whether the article was written to make it seem that way I can't tell. This, however, speaks for itself:

For Carl Anderson — then a special assistant to Reagan who worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison and now the current Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus — such language was completely unacceptable.

In a two-sentence memo he sent to Mari Maseng, then the director of the Office of Public Liaison, on May 28, 1987, Anderson wrote bluntly, “Failure to make moral judgments on this behavior is why we have this epidemic. To my knowledge, the President has never said that we are to abandon moral judgment on these types of matters.”


It is easy to understand the desperation of AIDS patients back then; here is a People magazine article on patients heading to France in an attempt to get HPA-23. Unfortunately, it turns out HPA-23 is ineffective against HIV. In retrospect one has to wonder if Hudson's efforts to get care in Paris might not have been better spent getting state of the art treatment in California. Of course there was no way to know that at the time, but it serves as yet another cautionary tale that just because an experimental drug shows some early promise in treating a dread disease does not mean it will turn out to be useful.
posted by TedW at 6:17 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I remember all of this very well. It was sickening then, and it's sickening now.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:29 AM on February 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


I will never understand why that third-rate actor (and his batshit crazy wife) was awarded canonization.

Reagan was canonized out of necessity because Republican presidents have such a shitty track record. Think about it, you're a Republican and you want a strong leader that embodies your ideals. A president is your best option. Looking at Republican presidents, who do you choose?

Bush II: Politically toxic.
Bush I: A one-term president in a recession
Reagan: Average president, but two terms, economy grew, safely dead.
Ford: An unelected (less than!) one-term whose best quality was not being Nixon
Nixon: See what I mean?

Unless they want to reach back to Eisenhower, there's really nobody they can choose but Reagan
posted by leotrotsky at 6:29 AM on February 3, 2015 [35 favorites]


The other thing about Reagan was that he got elected (leaving aside the trickery of the October Surprise) at a time when the US was feeling bruised and battered. Carter spoke about malaise and the need to plan ahead for the future, and Reagan's response was basically "FUCK THAT AMERICA FUCK YEAH EVERYTHING CAN BE AWESOME FOREVER" and a LOT of people remember how good Reagan made them feel- about themselves, about America- and will never, ever allow anything to come between them and how good he made them feel.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:33 AM on February 3, 2015 [35 favorites]


My favorite is when they claim Lincoln.
posted by almostmanda at 6:33 AM on February 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


My favorite is when they claim Lincoln.

And in the same breath, the Confederacy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:34 AM on February 3, 2015 [19 favorites]


Wow, that memo from Carl Anderson. I had to read it three or four times because I didn't think I could possibly be reading it right. But I was. Wow.
posted by something something at 6:35 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Compare that list to Democratic presidents.

Obama: two terms, tremendous economic recovery, universal health care, ended two wars, killed OBL
Clinton: triangulating and Lewinsky, but two terms, tremendous economic growth
Carter: this one's the bogey
Johnson: Vietnam, sure, but Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act
Kennedy: there's just
Truman: so many options
Roosevelt: to choose from
posted by leotrotsky at 6:36 AM on February 3, 2015 [18 favorites]


Wow, that memo from Carl Anderson. I had to read it three or four times because I didn't think I could possibly be reading it right. But I was. Wow.

I just hit the same spot. Staggering.
posted by mochapickle at 6:44 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


The end result, particularly in light of Hudson's advanced stage of disease, was going to be the same in 1985 whether she intervened or not. I understand and fully respect the disgusting mark against her character that this leaves, but she didn't affect the outcome through her inaction.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:53 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Unless they want to reach back to Eisenhower, there's really nobody they can choose but Reagan

They're not going to reach back to Eisenhower, because the right-wing die-hards always viewed Eisenhower as a RINO squish. Clinton and Obama were more Eisenhowerian than any subsequent Republican ever was.
posted by jonp72 at 6:54 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


leotrotsky: She's a mixed bag.

I mean, she should get some credit for being the first woman president, at least in the second term.
Nope. Madame Wilson owns that honor. And if she didn't physically sign legislation during his convalescence, Eleanor Roosevelt sure as hell did.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:54 AM on February 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


Obama: two terms, tremendous economic recovery, universal health care, ended two wars, killed OBL

I think 'universal healthcare' is a little gratiutious.
posted by DriftingLotus at 6:56 AM on February 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Though I did enjoy this little bit:
The request was then forwarded within the NSC to Tyrus Cobb, a staffer responsible for France and several other European countries, for further action.
Who presumably responded by getting blackout drunk whilst spewing racial hatred, issuing brutal beatings and crying over his memorabilia.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:57 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I would heartily recommend The Clothes Have No Emperor by Paul Slansky to anyone who would like to get their Reagan hate-on.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:58 AM on February 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


Obama: two terms, tremendous economic recovery, universal health care, ended two wars, killed OBL

I'm not so sure he has actually ended those wars and may end up starting another one, and we damn sure don't have anything approaching universal health care. But your larger point stands, and the fact that he was able to accomplish anything at all in the face of unaminous Republican opposition and Democratic spinelessness is pretty impressive.


Carter: this one's the bogey


Despite what the revisionists would have people believe, the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel did more to ensure the latter's long-term security than anything a Republican president has done.
posted by TedW at 7:01 AM on February 3, 2015 [24 favorites]


Also you mean mulligan, not bogey.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:11 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


As for why Reagan was canonized by conservatives; a few thoughts. There aren't a lot of alternatives, as mentioned above. Also, he won the presidency at about the time a lot of people had written off the Republicans in the wake of Watergate, thereby preventing the U.S. from becoming a liberal dystopia with universal healthcare, a functioning social safety net, and a top notch public education system, among other communist plots. Perhaps most importantly, he was a master (with help from cretins like Lee Atwater) of dogwhistle politics, showing Republican politicians since then how to use white resentment to win elections.
posted by TedW at 7:13 AM on February 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


99.99% of the time, if a person emphasizes some moral angle regarding a political or public health problem, it's merely a preface for them saying "no". (It's usually very, very, very fucking hypocritical, too.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:32 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Republicans love Reagan because he was full of shit, shat on black people, gays, pussies, avoiding fighting a war when all his friends were doing it, made shit up all the time about how he became rich and famous because of his own hard work with no help from anyone else, was generally a dumbass with no intellectual depth, was a sexual hypocrite and a shitty father, and generally believed himself to be awesome when he was actually a dumb turd. What's not to like?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:33 AM on February 3, 2015 [31 favorites]


It seemed (from my vantage point in Canada) that many white 'merican men (of diverse social strata) were tired of living with the lessons of Viet Nam and the ongoing humiliation of the Iranian hostage crisis. They yearned to cry 'Havoc!', and let slip the dogs of war.

To do this, they needed to put a compliant and idiotic asshole in charge. They still stand by that decision and will do it again and again for as long as can manage it.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:46 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Fuckin' Puritans and their word salads.
posted by phaedon at 7:46 AM on February 3, 2015


For what it's worth, Carter never uttered the word "malaise" in the speech given that sobriquet.

You can read the speech here: http://millercenter.org/president/speeches/speech-3402

I think it looks pretty astute in retrospect, excepting some aspects that would be fairly out of place today (such as a Democratic president calling for utilities to generate more power using coal).
posted by burden at 8:23 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


For Nancy Reagan's part, she's 93 and can easily claim amnesia, and of course she does. The fulcrum of the story is a Reagan aide, Mark Weinberg, who for reasons of his own evidently "recommended" to Nancy Reagan that Rock Hudson's publicist's request be denied. But it doesn't read as much of an outrage bombshell to have the headline read "Reagan White House aide turned down Rock Hudson's plea for help."

It's straightforward enough to implicate the White House in overwhelming indifference or worse on the AIDS epidemic without pushing this story. For eight years, the White House systematically and unswervingly made the minimal effort possible to fight AIDS, resisted congressional efforts to appropriate the level of funding needed to combat the epidemic, and did so against the urgings of dozens of medical professionals and policy experts. That's already clear from all reliable evidence.

Nor is it clear to me that making Rock Hudson the specific martyr here does anything but continue to obscure the real story, which has been known for decades now, that under the Reagan Administration's watch and at least partly due to its indifference tens of thousands of Americans died of AIDS -- and by far the vast majority of them will never have Rock Hudson's name, renown, and celebrity to remember them by. Who is mounting the outrage about that? What does putting the pitchforks to Nancy Reagan do at this point to advance that truth?
posted by blucevalo at 8:32 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Unless they want to reach back to Eisenhower, there's really nobody they can choose but Reagan

Yeah... Eisenhower is a bit of a no.
posted by garius at 8:32 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Another alternative for Republicans would be to go back to Theodore Roosevelt. You know the guy that created national parks, battled the railroads, protected federal lands, instituted the Pure Food and Drug Act, broke up giant corporations...oh wait, that's not gonna fly either.
posted by Ber at 8:37 AM on February 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


Who is mounting the outrage about that?

I believe tens of thousands of us have mounted outrage about that, for decades.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:38 AM on February 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


I believe tens of thousands of us have mounted outrage about that, for decades.

I'm well aware of that. You wouldn't know it from the article linked in this thread, which is mostly about Rock Hudson.
posted by blucevalo at 8:41 AM on February 3, 2015


What does putting the pitchforks to Nancy Reagan do at this point to advance that truth?

I'm all for putting pitchforks to Nancy Reagan just for the warm fuzzies it makes me feel.
posted by TedW at 8:44 AM on February 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


> What does putting the pitchforks to Nancy Reagan do at this point to advance that truth?

Are you saying she doesn't deserve blame? That's certainly not the message I get from that article.

Pointing out that a revered figure deliberately had some of the responsibility for some terrible things that happened is a way to put a human face on this blame. There is more than enough blame to go around.

Overall, this idea that we can't focus in on just one bad person because there are many bad people is an extremely bad one - based on this we can never learn anything or assign blame to anyone specific, just flounder around in a welter of blame for millions.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:44 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


leotrotsky: Reagan was canonized out of necessity because Republican presidents have such a shitty track record. Think about it, you're a Republican and you want a strong leader that embodies your ideals. A president is your best option. Looking at Republican presidents, who do you choose?
It sounds good, but they canonized Ronnie before he even left office. Snarky reasons above; reasons they actually loved him:

1. He "defeated" the USSR. (Well, he was on watch when the tumbling giant finally tripped and fell.)
2. He "was tough" on foreign enemies. (Lotsa of warmongering rhetoric; basically the opposite of "Speak softly and carry a big stick.")
3. He freed the hostages. (By giving an enemy state weapons.) (His Iranian collaborators literally released them minutes after he was sworn in. Couldn't have been done better on an actual Hollywood sound stage - if we find out he provided makeup artists for their television appearances I wouldn't be surprised.)
4. He "restored the economy". (It didn't begin recovering until his second term, really - that's some pretty slow damn "recovery", but if Republicans can blame Obama for starting the Great Recession - and they do, heartily, jeebus be praised - they can believe Reagan magically restored the economy.)
5. He preached "trickle-down", which is Reaganspeak for "the poor should be grateful for our crumbs" - and that is VERY appealing to people who believe God rewards the just with wealth and punishes the wicked here on Earth.
6. He talked a good talk about helping the downtrodden - and we all love to hear someone talk about caring - without actually doing anything (which would cost someone something). This goes for the poor, the minorities, AIDS victims, and so on.

He was the perfect GOP president.

The GOP electorate feel physical pain at the thought of a lazy, dishonest person getting a spoonful of soup; they'd rather go without themselves than see that happen. Ronnie was perfect.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:06 AM on February 3, 2015 [16 favorites]


blucevalo: I'm well aware of that. You wouldn't know it from the article linked in this thread, which is mostly about Rock Hudson.
Yes, the article is about Rock Hudson. It's not wrong to write an article about him. It's not wrong to use him as a bannerbearer for all victims. The point of the article is "The Reagans wouldn't even help him."
posted by IAmBroom at 9:09 AM on February 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


Who is mounting the outrage about that?

I have a file of all of their names.

Chris Geidner knows as well as the rest of us that no one could have saved Hudson at that point, but it does indeed bring more truth into the immoral legacy surrounding the Reagans over the AIDS crisis.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:10 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Clinton: triangulating and Lewinsky, but two terms, tremendous economic growth

It still blows my mind that people completely forget about Kosovo. "Wag the dog" was cutesy (read: bullshit, backstabby) Republican spin doctoring, sure, but Clinton's military intervention -- into a genocide -- actually worked.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:17 AM on February 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


It's mentioned practically as an aside, but some of the stuff in the article came out of the Mattachine Society going through the Reagan Presidential Library holdings.

I'm guessing they weren't actively looking for stuff on Rock Hudson, but for the thousands of other people. So I bet there will be a lot more outrage to come.
posted by Katemonkey at 9:24 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


That speech modification mentioned at the very end of the article is telling, and an important historic contribution. I tip my hat to archive activists.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:24 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Wow, that memo from Carl Anderson. I had to read it three or four times because I didn't think I could possibly be reading it right. But I was.

You could get some good practice by following Mike Huckabee. He says something like that about every other week.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:32 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Even though I realize that arriving at the white house with your humanity intact is probably not possible, this is heartbreaking.
posted by ethansr at 9:55 AM on February 3, 2015


On reflection, and reading the responses to my earlier comment, I agree that it's definitely for the better good that this memo and other material is being surfaced by researchers. My comments earlier were ill-considered.
posted by blucevalo at 10:16 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


but she didn't affect the outcome through her inaction.

She affected the outcomes of tens of thousands of lives by the inaction she embodied.

Actually, 'inaction' is a terrible word. It implies passivity. What she and Saint Ronnie and all the other turdmunching ne'erdowells in their administration did was make a choice to send gay men to their deaths because, ew, buttsex. We lost years of research and prevention, we lost a huge chunk of the gay male population, and the deaths continued because they spent years ignoring what the CDC was saying.

These assholes chose to be assholes, and they deserve to be pilloried for it from now until the end of time.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:58 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Having seen more than a few 'Aids Cures Homosexuality' bumper stickers while living in various backwaters across this supposedly great nation, I'll agree with feckless above, though I'd apply These assholes chose to be assholes, and they deserve to be pilloried for it from now until the end of time much more broadly than to the republican party or any particular republican president.

Not that any of them are worth a damn, to be sure.
posted by metagnathous at 11:09 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


scaryblackdeath: Clinton: triangulating and Lewinsky, but two terms, tremendous economic growth

It still blows my mind that people completely forget about Kosovo. "Wag the dog" was cutesy (read: bullshit, backstabby) Republican spin doctoring, sure, but Clinton's military intervention -- into a genocide -- actually worked.


It's also amazing after 8 years of Bush to realize that a president actually learned from his mistakes and changed course, rather than doubling down. Inaction in Rwanda ended in disaster, and Clinton was determined not to repeat his mistake:

"He has said that not stopping the 1994 genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 Rwandans, mostly Tutsis, were slaughtered, was one of his main foreign policy failings. 'I don't think we could have ended the violence, but I think we could have cut it down. And I regret it.'"

Can't imagine Reagan or Bush II saying something like that. Never apologize is just part of that mindset.

To Bush's credit, he was pretty good about combating AIDS in Africa.
posted by spaltavian at 1:31 PM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I didn't get the outrage about the White House's passivity about AIDS until I realized the context in which the CDC normally goes "all hands on deck" to stem the tide of new infectious diseases which they approached in the 70s when it came to swine flu and Legionnaire's disease. And seeing it play out in real time when it came to Ebola last year just drove the point home.

New infectious diseases that we cannot effectively combat are perhaps the greatest potential danger our country faces in terms of death toll. The fact that the executive branch basically decided to ignore an infectious disease simply because of the target population it was associated with can't be regarded as anything other than a national security breakdown.

Jesse Helms was relatively up front about this an in "apology" he made for ignoring AIDS, saying more or less that if he had know it was going to spread outside the gay community, he would have taken it more seriously.
posted by deanc at 1:47 PM on February 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


simply because of the target population

populations. Haitians, gay men, and IV drug users.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:24 PM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm all for shitting on the memory of the Reagan presidency and particularly their handling (or ignorance of) the AIDS crisis. But FWIW a lot of Democrats were pretty awful to AIDS pariahs, too. And undistinguished on gay rights in general. The Republicans are worse in some average sense, but discrimination against homosexuals was a bipartisan attitude.

Nicer to remember the folks who acted with compassion in those early years of the Gay Plague. Like Elizabeth Taylor, who responded to her friend Hudson's death with a public campaign to help people with HIV.
posted by Nelson at 12:53 AM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


It was Democrats who held hearings on the Reagan Administration's refusal to fund AIDS research and the CDC's sluggishness in addressing the health crisis, it was Democrats who fought against Republican governor George Deukmejian making it an annual point to slash AIDS funding in California, it was Democrats who were ridiculed by Republicans for being the party of "acid, abortion, and AIDS," it was Democrats who held their presidential nominating convention in San Francisco at the height of the AIDS crisis when they were being ridiculed (again) for being the party that catered to AIDS patients.

So, yeah, many Democrats were awful (for instance, both Michael Dukakis and Mario Cuomo either underbudgeted AIDS research or didn't budget it at all in some of the worst years of the epidemic), no doubt. But there's no question which party was worse when it comes to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s -- absolutely no question.

The idea that the Republicans were worse merely in some "average sense" is absurd, and the blunt, raw discrimination of the kind that the Republican Party honed to a science in the 1980s with the lives of people dying of AIDS was clearly not a bipartisan thing, by any stretch of the imagination.
posted by blucevalo at 10:36 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Seems like the French deserved most of the blame here. Why couldn't they make an exception for a dying man?
posted by republican at 1:43 PM on February 7, 2015


You have got to be joking. Or you are completely unaware of exactly how much the Reagan White House squashed research and prevention around HIV/AIDS.

Seriously, this is just trolling.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:37 PM on February 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


"You have got to be joking. Or you are completely unaware of exactly how much the Reagan White House squashed research and prevention around HIV/AIDS."

Regardless of what your opinion is of Reagan, the fact remains that the only reason his input was needed in this case is because the French denied treatment to Rock Hudson.
posted by republican at 4:11 PM on February 7, 2015


republican: " Regardless of what your opinion is of Reagan, the fact remains that the only reason his input was needed in this case is because the French denied treatment to Rock Hudson."
Although only a handful of people knew it, Hudson was in Paris desperately seeking treatment for AIDS — treatment that even a prominent, wealthy actor could not get in the United States in 1985.
But yes, let's blame the French.
posted by Lexica at 5:13 PM on February 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Regardless of what your opinion is of Reagan, the fact remains that the only reason his input was needed in this case is because the French denied treatment to Rock Hudson.

Yeah, it's the fault of the French for denying him treatment for years in the USA.

Wait, no.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:26 AM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


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