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Joe Biden coronavirus ad praises Ronald Reagan, seemingly forgetting his handling of the AIDS crisis killed thousands

Emma Powys Maurice March 26, 2020
Joe Biden coronavirus ad praises Reagan, forgetting his response to AIDS

The Biden campaign ad invokes former American president Ronald Reagan (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty/UnitetheCountry)

A nationwide TV ad for Joe Biden has puzzled viewers by portraying Ronald Reagan’s handling of the AIDS crisis in a positive light.

Created by Unite the Country PAC, which backs Biden, the ad firmly condemns Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic by invoking the images of presidents who guided the country through crisis.

“Crisis comes to every presidency,” the narrator begins in a sombre tone as Reagan’s face flashes across the screen. “We don’t blame them for that. What matters is how they handle it.”

The image of Reagan is followed by the famous photos of Barack Obama as he oversees the death of Osama bin Laden, and George W Bush shouting into a megaphone as he stands in the rubble of the World Trade Centre.

“Donald Trump didn’t create the coronavirus. But he is the one who called hoax, who eliminated the pandemic response team, and let the virus spread unchecked across America,” the ad continues.

“Crisis comes to every president. This one failed.”

While the Biden ad is undoubtedly correct in its criticism of the Trump administration‘s handling of the current pandemic, it has been accused of whitewashing history as it implies that Reagan did not fail in the handling of his own crisis.

In reality, Reagan reacted appallingly to the AIDS epidemic, and in the early days his administration’s response was alarmingly similar to that of Trump.

Reagan laughs with Rev. Jerry Falwell in the Cabinet Room, shortly after being told that the government was not doing enough to fight AIDS (BettmanGetty)

Just as Trump laughed off the coronavirus in the early days of its spread, so too did Reagan treat the AIDS epidemic as a joke.

In 1982, when Reagan’s press secretary was asked if the president was tracking the spread of  “the gay plague”, the room erupted in laughter as he replied: “I don’t have it, do you?”

The journalist pressed on: “Does the president – in other words, the White House – look on this as a great joke?”

The press secretary repeatedly shrugged him off, saying: ” No, I don’t know anything about it, Lester.”

Even though AIDS was first identified in 1981, Reagan remained deadly silent on the issue for years, and didn’t even say the word until a 1985, the year of the first high-profile death from the disease.

Many believe his apathy caused thousands to get infected and die, in part because it delayed research critical to understanding and treating the virus.

Reagan’s successors eventually acted on the crisis, but it was sadly too late for thousands of victims. By the end of the decade the number of reported AIDS cases in the USA reached 100,000, and thousands more would continue to die in the years to come.

We can only hope Trump will learn from his mistakes. And that Joe Biden has a better understanding of Ronald Reagan.

More: 2020 presidential campaign, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Donald Trump, HIV/AIDS, joe biden, Ronald Reagan, US presidents

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