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Nancy Reagan Declined to Help Dying Rock Hudson Get AIDS Treatment, Document Shows

Nancy Reagan Declined to Help Dying Rock Hudson Get AIDS Treatment, Document Shows
In this file photos, (L-R) Former First Lady of the US Nancy Reagan and actor Rock Hudson. (Joyce Naltchayan/AFP/Getty Images; CBS/Landov)

By    |   Wednesday, 04 February 2015 07:24 AM

Nancy Reagan declined to help actor Rock Hudson get into a hospital in France so he could be treated by his own doctor nine weeks before he died of AIDS-related complications in 1985.

BuzzFeed News obtained a letter Hudson's publicist, Dale Olson, sent to the White House on July 24, 1985 – just a year after Hudson had been seated at the First Lady's table during a state dinner there.

Dr. Dominique Dormant, a French army doctor, had secretly treated Hudson for AIDS in the fall. Hudson had traveled to France to seek further treatment, however he was denied access to the hospital where Dormant worked because he was not French.

"Only one hospital in the world can offer necessary medical treatment to save life of Rock Hudson or at least alleviate his illness," Olson wrote to the White House, pleading for his friend.

"Commanding general of Percy Hospital has turned down Rock Hudson as a patient because he is not French. Doctor Dormant in Paris believes a request from the White House or a high American official would change his mind. Can you help by having someone call the commanding general’s office at the Percy Hospital at the above number. Please advise what can be done"

The White House received the telegram on July 24, 1985.

It was addressed to Mark Weinberg, a young Reagan staffer hired by press secretary James Brady. Weinberg called then-First Lady Reagan on the telephone, and recommended they not intervene.

"I knew the Reagans knew Rock Hudson, obviously from their years in Hollywood, and for that reason I decided to call her," Weinberg told BuzzFeed News in a recent interview.

"The Reagans were very conscious of not making exceptions for people just because they were friends of theirs or celebrities or things of that kind. That wasn’t — they weren’t about that. They were about treating everybody the same."

"The view was, 'Well, we’re so sorry' — and she was, they were both very sorry for Rock’s condition and felt for him and all the people — but it just wasn’t something that the White House felt that they could do something different for him than they would do for anybody else."

After his call with Nancy, Weinberg summarized the call in a memo to Bill Martin, a special assistant to Reagan with the National Security Council.

"I spoke with Mrs. Reagan about the attached telegram. She did not feel this was something the White House should get into and agreed to my suggestion that we refer the writer to the U.S. Embassy, Paris," he wrote.

"Mrs. Reagan asked, however, that we inform the press of the President’s telephone call to Rock Hudson today, which I did."

President Reagan did indeed give Hudson a call, and was able to make contact.

The president hadn't publically acknowledged the larger AIDS crisis at that point. The next year, in 1986 Surgeon General C. Everett Koop released a report on AIDS that brought it to the full attention of the nation.

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Nancy Reagan declined to help actor Rock Hudson see his doctor in France nine weeks before he died of AIDS-related complications in 1985.
nancy reagan, declined, rock hudson, aids, treatment
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 07:24 AM
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