Appalling Film Shows Reagan Spox and Press Corps Homophobically Joking About AIDS


Longtime Mediaite readers are probably familiar with Les Kinsolving, the former World Net Daily White House correspondent whose long, fascinating career has included some chilling instances of prescience on his part. One of those was his early and urgent (if misguided) coverage of the AIDS crisis. As a result of Kinsolving’s consistent pressure on then-White House Press Secretary Larry Speakes to acknowledge and do something about the crisis, long before anyone else in the media would do so, history could record the administration’s appalling and dismissive attitude.

I’d only ever seen Les’ exchanges in the form of briefing transcripts, but his daughter recently showed me a short film called “When AIDS Was Funny” that consists of audio and photographs from those exchanges, and the result is more stomach-churning than any transcript could convey. Not only does Speakes proclaim ignorance of the disease and make homophobic cracks about it, he even, at several points, jokes about Les’ “interest” in homosexuality. But the capper is the reaction of Les’ colleagues, some of whom would become my colleagues decades later, who joined in the laughter and the homophobic cracks:

Watch this on The Scene.

The Reagan administration’s response to the AIDS crisis was back in the news recently because of Hillary Clinton‘s remarks on the death of Nancy Reagan, but this film is a reminder of the fact that this sort of ugliness doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s a reminder that’s particularly relevant given the course of our presidential election this week.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

Filed Under: