Throughout all of this Ronald Reagan did nothing. When Rock Hudson, a friend and colleague of the Reagan’s, was diagnosed and died in 1985 (one of the 20,740 cases reported that year), Reagan still did not speak out. When family friend William F. Buckley, in a March 18, 1986 New York Times article, called for mandatory testing of HIV and said that HIV+ gay men should have this information forcibly tattooed on their buttocks (and IV drug users on their arms), Reagan said nothing. In 1986 (after five years of complete silence) when Surgeon General C. Everett Koop released a report calling for AIDS education in schools, Bennett and Bauer did everything possible to undercut and prevent funding for Koop’s too-little too-late initiative. By the end of 1986, 37,061 AIDS cases had been reported; 16,301 people had died.
The most memorable Reagan AIDS moment was at the 1986 centenary rededication of the Statue of Liberty. The Reagan’s were there sitting next to the French Prime Minister and his wife, Francois and Danielle Mitterrand. Bob Hope was on stage entertaining the all-star audience. In the middle of a series of one-liners, Hope quipped, “I just heard that the Statue of Liberty has AIDS, but she doesn’t know if she got it from the mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Fairy.” As the television camera panned the audience, the Mitterrands looked appalled. The Reagans were laughing. By the end of 1989, 115,786 women and men had been diagnosed with AIDS in the United States more then 70,000 of them had died.