In an interview conducted at Nancy Reagan’s funeral today, Hillary Clinton praised her for “starting the conversation on AIDS” and then later, after an outcry by the Gay community, retracted her comment, saying she misspoke. Today we are reminded that some of our politicians have stood up against those who wish to the rewrite history of how the the Reagans handled the AIDS crisis.
California State Senator Mark Leno made the following comments on the California Senate floor two weeks ago when he condemned President Reagan’s record on AIDS during the Legislature’s annual Ronald Reagan Day ceremony:
Here is what Senator Leno, a Democrat, said:
“Colleagues, this resolution praises Ronald Reagan for ‘advancing the public good.’ Though the AIDS crisis began in 1981, President Ronald Reagan refused to even publicly recognize the fact of the epidemic until September 17th, 1985, vowing at that time that he would make AIDS research a top priority. When he introduced his 1986 federal budget, President Reagan actually cut AIDS funding by 11 percent. By the end of that year, it was reported that 24,000, yes 24,559 Americans had died of AIDS. That is half of all of the American casualties in World War I and more than half of all the U.S. deaths in the entirety of the Vietnam War. Since 1981, over 36 million people worldwide have died of AIDS. Now, I have to ask myself, why? Why would a U.S. president remain silent for four years while tens of thousands of innocent Americans, yes mostly gay young men, were dying from a virus? We may suspect why. But we may not know why. This is not my definition of advancing the public good. Though these facts are not new, I have remained silent in recent years while similar resolutions praising Ronald Reagan have passed off this floor. I can remain silent no longer. In memory of, and out of respect for, all those Americans who suffered and died gruesome and horrific deaths before their president would even speak; I cannot support this resolution today.”
What Senator Leno said serves as a crucial reminder that history cannot be forgotten: If we allow people to rewrite it, through interviews and speeches, without correction, it will happen again and again, giving license to the cruel to be cruel!