MSNBC Falsely Slams Reagan’s ‘Shameful Silence’ on AIDS

While commemorating the life and legacy of Barbara Bush on her Monday show, MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell rightfully highlighted the former First Lady’s advocacy for AIDS patients. However, she and left-wing Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart then used the topic to falsely slam “the unbelievable and shameful silence of the Reagan administration.”

After mentioning Saturday’s funeral service for Bush, Mitchell eagerly touted Capehart’s latest article in The Post: “And Jonathan, you wrote about her visit to a house – a nursing facility here for AIDS patients, for children.....And if you look at this picture of her holding an AIDS baby, it was in quite a contrast to the belated recognition of the scourge that the Reagan White House kept ignoring.”

 

 

Capehart declared: “The key to that picture is that the picture was taken in March 1989....By holding this baby with AIDS, she and the administration were sending a very clear signal: ‘The silence on the epidemic is over. The White House sees and hears you. The White House is not afraid.’”

He touted how Bush was able to “show by her example that there was nothing to be afraid of, it was pretty incredible.” He then, like Mitchell, took a nasty jab at President Reagan: “Especially in stark contrast to what you were just talking about, the unbelievable and shameful silence of the Reagan administration.”

In the second paragraph of his Post item, Capehart unleashed similar bile: “The revered and loquacious Reagan was mute on the epidemic laying waste to gay men, African Americans and other vulnerable populations. Barbara Bush broke that shameful silence with a hug and her voice.”

The anti-Reagan rhetoric pushed by Capehart and Mitchell illustrated a long-held liberal myth that the Reagan administration did nothing to fight the AIDS epidemic. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Far from “ignoring” or remaining “silent” on the disease, Ronald Reagan actually first discussed research funding during a 1985 press conference, and two years before that, in 1983, his Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler labeled AIDS a “number one priority” for the administration.

Beyond those words, the actions of the Reagan presidency spoke for themselves. From until 1983 through 1988, funding for AIDS research doubled every year, starting at $44 million and reaching $1.6 billion as Reagan left office.

If the news media thought the issue was so pressing, journalists certainly could have asked about AIDS during the 1984 presidential debates between Reagan and former Vice President Walter Mondale. However, the topic never came up once.

Here is a transcript of Mitchell’s April 23 exchange with Capehart:

12:41 PM ET

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ANDREA MITCHELL: And at the same time, we’ve been talking about the contrast with the Barbara Bush service this weekend. And Jonathan, you wrote about her visit to a house – a nursing facility here for AIDS patients, for children. And this was so unusual back in 1990, when there was still unwarranted fears about the contagiousness of AIDS, false fears. And if you look at this picture of her holding an AIDS baby, it was in quite a contrast to the belated recognition of the scourge that the Reagan White House kept ignoring.

JONATHAN CAPEHART [WASHINGTON POST]: The key to that picture is that the picture was taken in March 1989. Her husband, Barbara Bush’s husband, George H.W. Bush, had been inaugurated just two months before, so she’s a brand new first lady, she comes in, and this picture shot around the world. By holding this baby with AIDS, she and the administration were sending a very clear signal: “The silence on the epidemic is over. The White House sees and hears you. The White House is not afraid.”

If the grandmotherly First Lady of the United States can hold, can touch, can talk to the issue of HIV and AIDS and not be afraid, and do so with confidence and show by her example that there was nothing to be afraid of, it was pretty incredible. Especially in stark contrast to what you were just talking about, the unbelievable and shameful silence of the Reagan administration.     

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NBDaily Conservatives & Republicans AIDS MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports Washington Post Video Andrea Mitchell Jonathan Capehart Barbara Bush Ronald Reagan

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