The West Hollywood City Council election is one year away, but one of the three declared candidates is being criticized over his defense several years ago of Ronald Reagan’s position on AIDS.
James Duke Mason, who announced in December that he was making a second attempt to win a City Council seat, got a harsh response today to a post made as many as four years ago on his Facebook page about Reagan. In that post, Mason called the conservative Republican president “a great leader and a great man … He wasn’t the one that ignored people suffering from AIDS, it was the right wing nuts like Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes in his administration that allowed the truth about the disease to be hidden from Reagan. They kept him from taking action.”
The AIDS Memorial, an Instagram account created by a Scottish man known only as Stuart to memorialize those who have died of AIDS, responded today to Mason’s old post.
“You’re an AIDS revisionist! You must apologise to the gay community for your ignorant commentary on the Reagans!,” read the post on the AIDS Memorial’s Twitter account.
Another post on the AIDS Memorial page was in response to an earlier tweet by Belinda Carlisle, Mason’s mother, who is famous for her role in the Go-Gos, the famous female rock band. In her tweet, Carlisle expressed her pride in her son’s decision to run for City Council.
“Not with views like this – a gay man in support of Ronald Reagan – disgraceful,” responded the AIDS Memorial.
The AIDS Memorial’s Instagram account has 42,000 followers but its Twitter account has only 789 followers. However its response to Mason’s defense of Reagan is being circulated to people in West Hollywood.
Mason’s post about Reagan cited the fact that his father was a friend of the president and first lady and acknowledged that he hadn’t always made the right decisions.
“Reagan was a great leader and a great man,” Mason said. “He had great leadership skills and was able to inspire the nation at a time when it needed it most. He also single-handedly ended the Cold War. My Dad, who was a close friend of him and Nancy’s, said he was 100% authentic in his love for and faith in America, and that he didn’t have a mean bone in his body. Having said that, there’s no doubt that he was wrong on AIDS, as he was with many other issues. I admire him not for his policies but for his leadership skills and for his character. He wasn’t the one that ignored people suffering from AIDS, it was the right wing nuts like Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes in his administration that allowed the truth about the disease to be hidden from Reagan. They kept him from taking action.”
In an interview with WEHOville, Mason said he think he posted that comment on Reagan on his Facebook page about four years ago. However, he said, since the election of Donald Trump as president, his views have changed.
Noting that he has always seen himself as a progressive Democrat, Mason said “I understand now on a visceral level why people feel so angry and passionate about Reagan because of what we see with Trump … Now I can relate more to the anger and ferocity.”
Mason also alluded to a similar statement that Barack Obama had said about Reagan in 2008. ““I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not,” Obama said. “He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it… I think people just tapped into- he tapped into what people were already feeling, which was, we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”
Mason said he does believe Reagan made a major mistake in not addressing the AIDS crisis.
Mason is perhaps the best known of the three candidates who have emerged thus far for the March 2019 election. That election is to fill three seats currently occupied by John D’Amico, Lindsey Horvath and Lauren Meister. The only other candidates who have announced are Tom deMille, who has run unsuccessfully in the past, and Timothy Williams, who will be the first black candidate to run for a West Hollywood City Council seat.
The incumbents have not yet declared whether they will re-election, but it is widely expected that all three will make such announcements as we move closer to the election date.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the founder of the AIDS Memorial Instagram site and Twitter account as Steve. His name is Stuart. The story has been corrected.