I like The Atlantic. It’s a magazine where I go out of my way to buy the print version because it has excellent writing and interesting angles on various subjects. I will not always agree with the content, but for the most part, it will provide me with information that will get me to think more about the subject they’re covering. It’s why it was so disappointing to see them publish the results of a survey where they asked people to name the worst leader of all time.
In the responses, there are names you’d expect to see such as Pol Pot and Adolf Hilter. Somebody even named Jefferson Davis and that is not an unfair choice.
However, Bryan Safi, an actor, TV host and podcaster, thought it would be a good idea to name Ronald Reagan as the worst leader of all time:
Tens of thousands of gay men were wiped off the map simply because he refused to speak, much less act. What’s worse than ignoring a national health crisis while you stuff your face full of jelly beans and your wife reads her horoscope in the next room?
In his response, Safi is attempting to be humorous while touching on a serious subject, AIDS. That said, it’s not funny, and in saying this, Safi reveals himself to be somebody who is not very bright or somebody that doesn’t have a firm grasp on history.
It is a well-worn myth Ronald Reagan never spoke publicly about the AIDS issue or that he didn’t “act” in doing somebody about AIDS. There wasn’t much know early on in Ronald Reagan’s first term about AIDS, and so yes, it was not until 1985 that Reagan spoke about it publicly because the issue became more serious. Reagan talked about AIDS directly in his 1986 State of the Union Address. So Safi’s accusation that he “refused to speak” about AIDS is nothing but a lie.
So too is Safi’s statement that Reagan refused to act. Deroy Murdock blew apart this myth over ten years ago in National Review:
First, according to the Congressional Research Service, federal spending on HIV/AIDS began at $8 million in fiscal year 1982 (remember that President Reagan was inaugurated on January 20, 1981). By the time Reagan left office, the fiscal 1989 budget contained $2.322 billion for HIV/AIDS. Overall, between fiscal years 1982 and 1989, the Reagan Administration spent $5.727 billion on HIV/AIDS.
Second, the average annual increase in HIV/AIDS funding over this period was 128.92 percent. Granted, this reflects the fact that spending quickly accelerated within a few years from literally nothing at first. Still, if Reagan really didn’t care about AIDS patients, surely he could have found a way for the growth curve on this item to follow a more horizontal trajectory.
Bryan Safi should educate himself on these issues before proclaiming Ronald Reagan is to blame for tens of thousands of gay men died.
The Atlantic should have known better than to publish such garbage.