This audio of Reagan's press secretary and reporters laughing about AIDS should not be forgotten.

As the AIDS crisis was developing in the early '80s, the Reagan administration was not only largely unconcerned, it apparently thought AIDS was kinda funny.

At three separate press conferences in 1982, 1983, and 1984, President Ronald Reagan's press secretary Larry Speakes responded not only dismissively to questions about the epidemic, but with thinly veiled gay jokes at the expense of the reporter who asked.

The transcripts have been published before, but the audio had never been made public — until today. Filmmaker Scott Calonico managed to acquire the tapes, which he cut into a short film and provided exclusively to Vanity Fair.


The recordings are infuriating — and highly disturbing. (Key passages transcribed below the video).

At the October 1982 press conference, journalist Lester Kinsolving tried to get spokesman Larry Speakes to answer a question about AIDS.

"It's known as the 'gay plague,'" Kinsolving says. A number of the reporters in the room laugh.

"I don't have it. Do you?" Speakes retorts. More laughter.

Photo by Scott Calonico/Vanity Fair.

Later in the conference, in reference to an unrelated question, Kinsolving jokes, "I love you, Larry."

"Let's don't put it in those terms, Lester," Speakes claps back.

(Translation: Kinsolving — "Hey Larry, what about this terrible disease that's wreaking havoc on hundreds of gay men and spreading rapidly that no one knows how to stop?" Speakes: "#nohomo.")

A year later, Kinsolving was back in the press room asking questions. Over 2,000 people had already died from AIDS.

Photo by Scott Calonico/Vanity Fair.

In response to another journalist who used the phrase "fairy tale," Speakes says of Kinsolving: "Lester's ears perked up when you said 'fairies.' He has an abiding interest in that."

Because, you know, of the earlier conversation. About gay people.

Kinsolving then asks if Reagan plans to issue advice on whether gays should stop "cruising" in light of the epidemic. Speakes responds, "If we come up with any research that sheds some light on whether gays should cruise or not cruise, we'll make it available to you." (Emphasis mine.) The reporters start laughing.

"Back to fairy tales," another reporter shouts from the crowd. The laughter intensifies.

By 1984, over 4,000 people had fallen victim to AIDS.

Photo by Scott Calonico/Vanity Fair.

Kinsolving asks Speakes if Reagan has expressed any concern.

"I haven't heard him express concern," Speakes responds.

"Have you been checked?" the press secretary later adds. (Yes, even after thousands of confirmed deaths across the United States and no cure in sight, the idea of Kinsolving being gay and having AIDS continues to be, apparently, pretty funny to Speakes.)

All of this is well-documented, but it's critically important we don't forget.

Photo by Scott Calonico/Vanity Fair.

It's not news that the Reagan administration didn't react with perfect clarity to the early years of the AIDS epidemic. And of course, no one knew the scope of the tragedy that was about to unfold (though many were sounding the alarm).

But it demonstrates how dangerous prejudice can be.

Imagine if, when asked about Ebola earlier this year, President Obama's press secretary had replied, "Psh, no, I'm not African. Are you African?" instead of taking it seriously.

How many more people might have become ill or died if his administration had chosen to ignore the crisis as a result?

Too often, when tragedy strikes, we prefer to see it as someone else's problem.

Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images.

Right now, over 4 million refugees from Syria are in desperate need of food, shelter, and a new country to call home.

"But it doesn't affect me, so I don't care," we think.

Right now, climate change is feeding massive storms and terrible droughts, wreaking havoc on coastal areas and low-lying islands, and displacing millions of people.

"But it doesn't affect me, so I don't care," we think.

Right now, transgender Americans are being murdered at historically high rates.

"But it doesn't affect me, so I don't care," we think.

That's the wrong response. The right response? "It doesn't affect me, but I still care. And I'm going to do something about it."

Not only because one day it might affect you, but because others are suffering.

That should be enough.

True

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday are teaming up to find the people who lead with love everyday.

Know someone in your neighborhood who's known for their optimistic attitude, commitment to bettering their community and always leading with love? Tell us about them for the chance to win a $2,000 grant to keep doing good in their community.

Nomination ends November 22, 2020

via Brittany Kinley / Facebook

Brittany Kinley, a mother from Mansfield, Texas, had a hilarious mom fail her and she's chalking it up to being just another crazy thing that happened in 2020.

When Kinley filled out the order form for her son Mason's kindergarten class pictures, there was an option to have his name engraved into the photos. But Kinley wasn't interested in having her son's name on the photos so she wrote "I DON'T WANT THIS" on the box.

Well, it appears as though she should have left the box blank because the computer or incredibly literal human that designed the photographs wrote "I DON'T WANT THIS" where mason's name should be.

Keep Reading Show less
True

A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.

Marcos Alberti's "3 Glasses" project began with a joke and a few drinks with his friends.

The photo project originally depicted Alberti's friends drinking, first immediately after work and then after one, two, and three glasses of wine.

But after Imgur user minabear circulated the story, "3 Glasses" became more than just a joke. In fact, it went viral, garnering more than 1 million views and nearly 1,800 comments in its first week. So Alberti started taking more pictures and not just of his friends.

Keep Reading Show less
via UDOT / Facebook

In December 2018, The Utah Department of Transportation opened the largest wildlife overpass in the state, spanning 320 by 50 feet across all six lanes of Interstate 80.

Its construction was intended to make traveling through the I-80 corridor in Summit County safer for motorists and the local wildlife.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that there were over 100 animal incidents on the interstate since 2016, giving the stretch of highway the unfortunate nickname of "Slaughter Row."

Keep Reading Show less