The Dish nine years ago posted the following exchange between a reporter and Reagan spokesman Larry Speakes, but it’s still a useful reminder of how far the country has come since October 15, 1982:
Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?
MR. SPEAKES: What’s AIDS?
Q: Over a third of them have died. It’s known as “gay plague.” (Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it’s a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the President is aware of it?
MR. SPEAKES: I don’t have it. Do you? (Laughter.)
Q: No, I don’t.
MR. SPEAKES: You didn’t answer my question.
Q: Well, I just wondered, does the President …
MR. SPEAKES: How do you know? (Laughter.)
Q: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?
MR. SPEAKES: No, I don’t know anything about it, Lester.
Q: Does the President, does anyone in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?
MR. SPEAKES: I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s been any …
Q: Nobody knows?
MR. SPEAKES: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.
Q: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping …
MR. SPEAKES: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning and he’s had no – (laughter) – no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.
Q: The President doesn’t have gay plague, is that what you’re saying or what?
MR. SPEAKES: No, I didn’t say that.
Q: Didn’t say that?
MR. SPEAKES: I thought I heard you on the State Department over there. Why didn’t you stay there? (Laughter.)
Q: Because I love you Larry, that’s why (Laughter.)
MR. SPEAKES: Oh I see. Just don’t put it in those terms, Lester. (Laughter.)
Q: Oh, I retract that.
MR. SPEAKES: I hope so.
Q: It’s too late.
(Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about AIDS during a World AIDS Day event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on December 2, 2013. On the 25th anniversary of World AIDS Day, President Obama announced that funding to prevent AIDS will be increased by 100 million dollars. By Mark Wilson/Getty Images)