I just finished reading Thomas Mallon’s fine historical novel Fellow Travelers and now look forward to seeing the Showtime mini-series that it inspired. Against the backdrop of the McCarthy era, these works concern the Lavender Scare: Gay Americans in the federal government were targeted as security risks who were thought vulnerable to blackmail, possibly by agents of the Soviet Union and other communist nations.
Amid this 1950s Cold War minefield, an ambitious State Department employee named Hawkins Fuller, early 30s, conducts a somewhat clandestine romance with a Senate staffer named Timothy Laughlin, early 20s. They navigate their own emotional hair triggers while trying not to step on anything that will blow them and their careers sky-high.
While Googling reviews of this show, I ran across three articles by D.R. Medlen on a website called the Mary Sue. In each one, she makes spectacularly false claims, if not outright lies, about President Ronald Reagan and his policies during the 1980s AIDS crisis. This is just the latest example of the Left’s enduring and dirtiest lie hurled at him at every available opportunity: Reagan snored through the AIDS crisis, except when he chuckled to himself about gay men dropping dead from a brand-new disease that they probably deserved to catch.
Medlen’s writing is typical of this relentlessly mendacious campaign.
First, Medlen writes: “Later on in the 1980s and 1990s, the series also covers the AIDS crisis as it ravaged the gay community while sitting President Ronald Reagan did nothing to help.”
Nothing to help?
Reagan’s “nothing” cost U.S. taxpayers more than $5 billion at the time.
I have written about this repeatedly, in most cases after I catch the Left regurgitating this anti-Reagan rubbish. Here is what I penned for National Review in 2014:
“Ronald Reagan launched federal AIDS spending. The $8 million initial federal outlay that Reagan signed in fiscal year 1982 more than quintupled to $44 million in FY 1983. That more than doubled to $103 million in FY 1984. Reagan’s final FY 1989 budget spent $2.32 billion on AIDS research and services. All told, Reagan approved $5.73 billion on AIDS — equal to $10.76 billion today. Reagan’s HIV/AIDS outlays increased annually, on average, 129 percent.”
Reagan’s $5.73 billion “nothing” budget would equal $14.72 billion in AIDS spending in 2023 dollars.
That is a whole lot of “nothing.”
In addition to the significant taxpayer money that Reagan deployed against this disease, he said this about AIDS research at a White House press conference on Sept. 17, 1985:
I have been supporting it for more than 4 years now. It’s been one of the top priorities with us, and over the last 4 years, and 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.
Critics say that Reagan should have spoken about AIDS sooner than he did. It’s hard to disagree. However, as much as the Left hated Reagan, they likely would have greeted his remarks with screams of “Bigot!” and “Homophobe!”
Some of Reagan’s detractors now insist that he should have padlocked the bathhouses where, unfortunately, the disease spread. Forty years ago, these very same people would have squealed like stuck pigs and locked arms to keep those same bathhouses wide open had Reagan dared to shutter them. Why? Because they hated Reagan and would have opposed anything he did, other than resign. Those who despise him today should be honest enough to admit this.
Beyond that, Reagan’s foes slam him for not simply curing AIDS himself. This summarizes their argument: He was president. He should have whipped up a vaccine, goddamnit!
The Reagan haters forget that the cause of AIDS was a mystery back then, even to scientists who labored endlessly against it. The 1980s lacked the internet, today’s supercomputers, DNA sequencing, gene splicing, and a host of sophisticated, curative technologies that we now take for granted.
Thanks to Descovy, Truvada, assorted drug cocktails, and more, AIDS thankfully has gone from a death sentence to a largely preventable and manageable condition. Nonetheless, there still is no complete cure for AIDS, more than 40 years after it emerged. In short, there is only so much that Reagan could have done, no matter how much his enemies stomp their feet today.
Third, according to Medlen, “In 1986, Reagan cut funding to the CDC and AIDS funds, which greatly limited the government’s ability to help people with HIV and AIDS.”
This is pure garbage.
The truth glistens in plain sight in Judith A. Johnson’s indispensable Congressional Research Service report, “AIDS Funding for Federal Government Programs: FY1981-FY1999.” Johnson presents Table 5 on page 6. It delineates “Government-wide Spending on HIV/AIDS.” For fiscal year 1986, that figure was $508 million. The FY 1987 sum was $922 million.
So, rather than “cut funding” to the “AIDS funds” (how redundant), Reagan increased AIDS spending that year by 81.5 percent.
Medlen’s dysfunctional math should have trapped her in seventh grade.
Fourth, Medlen declares that in 1986, “the city of San Francisco had a larger budget to combat the AIDS crisis than the entire federal government did.”
Under libel law, as established in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Sullivan case (1964), Medlen is guilty of either actual malice (she is flat-out gunning for Reagan, the facts be damned) or reckless disregard for the truth (Medlen is lazy and sloppy, has never heard of Google, and cannot be bothered to work as diligently as a high school newspaper staffer).
In fiscal year 1988–89, the Reagan administration spent $1.615 billion on HIV/AIDS research and treatment. Meanwhile, “for the 1988-89 fiscal year,” wrote Katherine M. Griffin in the Feb. 27, 1988, edition of the Los Angeles Times, “San Francisco’s total general fund budget is $1.2 billion.”
So, either San Francisco spent 134.58 percent of its municipal budget on AIDS and 0 percent on police, fire, schools, transportation, sanitation, libraries, parks, and recreation, or D.R. Medlen is lying/making it up as she goes.
Whichever the case, this is, at best, slipshod “journalism” and a rotten way to treat the legacy of the 40th president of the United States. At worst, D.R. Medlen would be wide open to a massive libel judgment in federal court. Medlen’s sole salvation: Dead Americans cannot sue for libel.
Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor.