Who Gets to Write History?

Subject:

“Appears to care?”

Re: George W. Bush and what you wrote last week. How does committing $20 billion of U.S. treasury to fight AIDS in Africa, where not one recipient can vote for him, where it truly is epidemic, at a time when he is vilified for deficits, make G.W. Bush “trying to appear like he cares a great deal about AIDS?” It would seem to me he CARES a great deal about it. Your boy Bubba didn’t do squat for his time in office, and yet you worship him.

Re: What you wrote about Reagan. He insisted that AIDS be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act to prevent widespread discrimination. He did this over the objections of the Christian Right that you claim he bowed to. Clinton knew about all of the horrors of AIDS, and I think he did some things, but if he were Republican you would be skewering him for not doing more. Why don’t you? You may not want to admit it, but you care more about your political party and affiliation than you do about AIDS, which is fine, but don’t preach to us Republicans about our bloody hands in the AIDS crisis.

Ronald Wilson Reagan was the greatest president in the 20th century. JFK may well have been the second best. Partisanship on both sides makes me sick. At least Bob Geldoff is willing to give Bush his credit for his truly humanitarian gestures in Africa. You should do the same.

Re: “Appears to care?”

Regarding George W. Bush on AIDS: He made grand gestures about committing $15 billion to AIDS but when push has come to shove, Bush hasn’t expended any capital with Republicans in Congress, where they’ve been slashing the first year’s down payment of $3 billion by about a third. Bush has a habit of talking the talk, but rarely walking the walk. Even some of these rock stars you refer to, like Bono, have now come out attacking him for his pitiful loss of backbone—something I wrote about right here a few months ago.

Regarding Ronald Reagan: You’re entitled to your opinion that he is the greatest president, but you’ve got your facts all wrong. I wrote about Reagan last week in the context of the much-debated biopic “The Reagans,” which CBS appallingly shelved earlier this week because of outcries from Reagan fanatics like yourself. What is even more disturbing than this unprecedented network bow to Washington on a mini-series that was made and set to air—handing a clear victory to the Republican National Committee—was the way the American media allowed right wingers to claim that Reagan was somehow misrepresented on AIDS by the mini-series.

It is true, as I wrote last week, that the line spoken by Reagan, played by James Brolin—“They who live in sin, shall die in sin”—was not accurate. But as his own authorized biographer pointed out, the sentiment was accurate. Reagan bowed to religious extremists on AIDS, and did make a statement about how this might be God’s wrath for those who don’t follow the Ten Commandments. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation now points out that the San Diego Tribune quoted a statement that Reagan made to the Third International AIDS Conference in 1987—the first time he stated the word AIDS publicly, six years after it began killing thousands of Americans—claiming that “the final judgment is up to God.”

Contrary to what you state, Reagan never stood up to the religious right. He was not, as you claim, responsible for the Americans With Disabilities Act. It was “kinder, gentler” George Bush Sr. who signed that bill—though signing the bill, which included people with all kinds of disabilities and chronic illnesses, was just about all he did for people with AIDS. (And as Gay City News’ Arthur S. Leonard has reported, Reagan and Bush appointees on the federal courts have consistently undercut the application of the ADA to people living with HIV.)

Regarding Bill Clinton: Though he did much more, in setting a tone as well as in offering political will, when it came to AIDS, I was as hard on Clinton as on Reagan, Bush, and George W. Bush. But there is an incontrovertible fact that many of you right wingers can’t seem to get through your heads these days: Bill Clinton is no longer president of the United States! (And in fact, he’s now running the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation HIV/ AIDS Initiative and offering the kinds of words about safer sex that we need to hear abstinence-crazed George W. Bush offering).

As far as the past goes, there are many people, Democrat and Republican, who are guilty of negligence on AIDS, including the gay community itself. But Ronald Reagan and the national Republican Party, taking marching orders from Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, did little to combat it at the most crucial time in the epidemic. And getting CBS to kill a campy miniseries is not going to change that fact.

Subject: AOL and the

Christian Right

My partner of 15 years informs me that you have stated that America Online has many pro-right, anti-homosexual positions. I am an AOL subscriber, and if this is true, I wish to cancel my membership with AOL. Can you direct me to this information?

Re: AOL and the Christian Right

It’s not accurate to say that AOL, as a company, has anti-gay positions. In fact, the company has a non-discrimination policy and certainly caters to gay customers, if a bit under the radar. A visit to the AOL gay chat rooms is all that’s necessary to see proof of that.

But, to the shock of many, journalist Barbara Dozetos revealed on Gay.com in October of 2000 that AOL founder Bill Case and his wife Jean gave over $8 million to a Christian school that, according to its own Web site, is a division of an anti-gay church that claims to “cure” homosexuals. That school, Fort Lauderdale’s Westminster Academy, is a Christian school that was founded by the Rev. James Kennedy’s anti-gay Coral Ridge Ministries, one of the primary crusaders against gay rights in America.

Subsequently, I revealed in a column on Gay.com that the 1998 tax returns of the Stephen Case Foundation, of which Jean Case is listed as president and Steve Case is listed as a board member, show that the foundation donated $100,000 to the McLean Bible Church. That evangelical fundamentalist church in McLean, Va., near the Cases’ home, promotes “reparative therapy” programs to supposedly turn gays straight, and its pastor is an antigay preacher. That column can easily be found by doing a Google web search of “Signorile and AOL.”

AOL is now part of AOL Time Warner, the publicly traded media giant.

Michelangelo Signorile hosts a daily radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio, stream 149.

E-mail Mike your questions at mike@signorile.com.

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