Reagan Revisionists at the National Review

Fact: AIDS is not mentioned in ANY of the seven Reagan State of the Union addresses

According to Deroy Murdock writing in The National Review:

"President Reagan's February 6, 1986 State of the Union address included this specific passage where he says the word 'AIDS' five times:

'We will continue, as a high priority, the fight against Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). An unprecedented research effort is underway to deal with this major epidemic public health threat. The number of AIDS cases is expected to increase. While there are hopes for drugs and vaccines against AIDS, none is immediately at hand. Consequently, efforts should focus on prevention, to inform and to lower risks of further transmission of the AIDS virus. To this end, I am asking the Surgeon General to prepare a report to the American people on AIDS.' "

A transcript, as delivered by Reagan, is here:


Reagan never mentions AIDS in the 1986 SOTU address, delivered on February 4, 1986.

Perhaps it was edited out at the last minute- and the reporter was working with a draft copy? Perhaps Reagan worker ants are busy rewriting the speeches at the Reagan Library- and the reporter is working from the not-yet-released revised version?

Or perhaps, as written in an "update" on the Right-wing Times Watch, it's from another, separate, written document submitted to Congress two days after the 1986 SOTU address (and if Reagan is anything like our current president, he probably never read it). There were actually several written "messages to congress" submitted on February 5 and 6, none of them a part of the State of the Union address delivered by President Reagan in his speech to Congress.

Buried in the document, "Message to Congress on America's Agenda for the Future," is the passage cited above in which the Surgeon General is asked "to prepare a report to the American people." This resulting "Surgeon General's Report" was completed in October 1986. A booklet based on the report, "Understanding AIDS," was mailed to the U.S. public two years later in 1988.

As is frequently, and accurately, reported, it was not until 1987 that Reagan spoke the word "AIDS" in a speech- and never in any of the seven State of the Union addresses between 1982 and 1988.

On April 1, 1987, Reagan made his first major speech about AIDS [pdf], when he addressed the Philadelphia College of Physicians. Reagan advocated a modest federal role in AIDS education, having told reporters the previous day that he favored AIDS education:

"... as long as they teach that one of the answers to it is abstinence - if you say it's not how you do it, but that you don't do it."

Two months later, on June 1, 1987, it was Vice President Bush who opened the 3rd International Conference on AIDS in Washington and was booed by the audience when he defended President Reagan's HIV testing proposals. He was later heard to remark:

"Who was that- some gay group out there?"

In 1990, George Bush-1 delivered his first AIDS speech as president- two years into his term- nine years after the first cases of AIDS were discovered. By 1990, there had been 198,466 persons diagnosed with AIDS in the U.S.; of that number, 121, 255 had already died.

Now, back to where this started: the December 2003 National Review article with "misleading" information about the 1986 State of the Union address.

It's still on line, as originally written- and, no doubt, is frequently referenced by Reagan apologists to discredit and trivialize the claims of "those gay activists."

This is only one of many attempts to revise history. Don't let them get away with it.

For more:

Time line of reported AIDS cases and deaths by year

The Body's Encyclopedia of AIDS: The Presidency

Avert's History of AIDS


Is that all there is?

Sadly, no!

didn't think so.

What happened in 1985?

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