Channing Kennedy unearthed a little tidbit from 1982, in which President Ronald Reagan’s spokesperson Larry Speakes is asked about the disease which had been recently declared an epidemic by the CDC: AIDS. Amid much laughter from Mr. Speakes and the White House Press Corps, all parties participate in a callous back and forth on what the Reagan Administration’s position was on the new disease.
One part of the dialogue stuck out to me:
Q: Does the President, does anybody in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?
MR. SPEAKES: I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s been any—
Q: Nobody knows?
MR. SPEAKES: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.
Q: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping—
MR. SPEAKES: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning and he’s had no—(laughter)—no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.
“There has been no personal experience here.”
No one in the White House, or among the White House Press Corps, knew anyone who was afflicted with AIDS. It hadn’t touched them. And the concerns of a despised minority reaping what they had sown were not their concerns.