Netflix star Jonathan Van Ness embarked on a Twitter rant Wednesday — the very day former President George H. W. Bush’s funeral was held in Washington, D.C.
Van Ness, a star on the rebooted version of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” attempted to point out what he believed were the late president’s shortcomings in tackling the AIDS epidemic.
Many Twitter users, however — including Van Ness’ own fans — pointed out how ill-timed his comments actually were.
What did he say?
In a series of tweets, Van Ness, who is openly gay, expressed his disappointments in the Bush administration.
Van Ness, who would have been around 2 years old when Bush took office in 1989, wrote, “People died of HIV / AIDS when George HW Bush left office. His inaction allowed the virus to spread, stigma to grow, and so many vulnerable people in the cold. He served our country yes, but his hand guided so many towards HIV & stigma that still lasts today.”
Van Ness gave Bush credit for transferring “power peacefully as all our previous presidents had,” and added a big “but” to his appreciation.
Van Ness wrote, “He transferred power peacefully as all our previous presidents had & that’s admirable for a lot of reasons, and his family seems lovely BUT he and his son massacred the Middle East. HW & Reagan presided over the worst epidemic as they diverted funds from research & treatment.”
In a final tweet, Van Ness wrote that he believes it’s important — even on someone’s funeral day — to remember “people and their actions clearly and accurately.”
“Serving our country is great but remembering people and their actions clearly and accurately is important,” he concluded. “This could happen again, as the current admin has no plan for HIV/ AIDS & tells the @CDCgov what and how they’re allowed to study and say.”
How did people react?
The majority of comments appeared to defend Bush from Van Ness’ unprovoked attack on his administration, even if they hadn’t been Bush supporters to begin with.
wrote, “He was a product of his times. People are acting like he was the only person during that time period who felt that way. As a gay man, I’m ashamed of how my community is behaving here. Basically celebrating his death. How about we celebrate how far we’ve come …”
added, “Please let the country have a day to come together civilly and heal wounds, rather than fan the flames of partisanship. Hindsight is 20/20… just ask Obama/Hillary regarding their beliefs on gay marriage.”
“Not sure why we’re so committed to the idea that it is only okay to eulogize and commemorate the lives of the sinless and faultless,” another Twitter user
Yeah, now that you mention it.
In 1990, Bush signed two pieces of legislation to benefit those people with HIV/AIDS — a very poorly understood disease during the ’80s and early ’90s.
One such piece of legislation included the Americans With Disabilities Act, which protected people living with disabilities — such as HIV/AIDS — from discrimination.
Bush also signed the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, which ended up being the most expansive federal program specifically for providing care and treatment to people with HIV/AIDS.
During a 1992 presidential debate between Bush, former President Bill Clinton, and former presidential candidate Ross Perot, Bush discussed solutions to the AIDS epidemic.
“It’s one of the few diseases where behavior matters,” he said. “And I once called on somebody, ‘Well, change your behavior! If the behavior you’re using is prone to cause AIDS, change the behavior!’
“Next thing I know,” he continued, “one of these ACT UP [AIDS action advocacy] groups is saying, ‘Bush ought to change his behavior!’ You can’t talk about [the AIDS epidemic] rationally!”