When we think of the presidency of the late Ronald Reagan, usually three things come to mind immediately: his surviving the 1981 assassination attempt, his famous quote “Tear down that wall” from a 1989 speech in West Berlin, and, first and foremost, the complete ineptitude of his administration to respond to the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s. In an interview to promote her new book The Earth Breaks In Colors, Patti Davis, once regarded as the renegade daughter of Ronnie and first lady Nancy, speaks with activist James Duke Mason, son of pop star Belinda Carlisle and Reagan’s former Chief of Protocol Morgan Mason, about her father’s abject failure in regards to the latter.
“I’m not gonna make excuses for, um, the failure of his administration to address the AIDS crisis when it was going on,” Davis says plainly. “I mean, it was a failure. It hurts my heart that that happened, on so many levels.”
She explains that her father wasn’t as informed as he should have been due to his staff’s own agenda and bias.
“One of my father’s flaws was that he delegated authority to other people, and relied on them to, uh, give him the appropriate information on things,” she offers. “Presidents get briefings every morning, um, they’re busy, so their time watching CNN is limited, so they do rely on people to bring them information on what was going on. There were people around him who did not want him dealing with the AIDS crisis, and I’m not making excuses for him, I’m saying that’s a flaw of his, and in this case it turned out to be a really tragic flaw because he didn’t really know the extent of what was going on until Rock Hudson died.”
Davis says that it wasn’t until the death of his longtime Hollywood pal in 1985 that her father learned the extent of the epidemic and only then did he speak out and allot government money for AIDS research.
The former first daughter also makes it very clear that the current crop of Republican presidential candidates who evoke her father’s name wouldn’t garner his favor.
“My father supported immigration,” she says. “He would certainly not be saying that Muslims should register and let’s build a huge wall and let Mexico pay for it and send them all back.” Sorry, Donald.
Watch their conversation below.