Nancy Reagan Refused to Help Dying Rock Hudson

9 weeks before actor's death from AIDS, she turned down his plea for assistance
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 3, 2015 3:59 PM CST
Updated Feb 7, 2015 1:34 PM CST
Nancy Reagan Refused to Help Dying Rock Hudson
In this Dec. 2, 1984, file photo, President Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan return to the White House in Washington.   (AP Photo, File)

Nine weeks before his death from AIDS complications on October 2, 1985, Rock Hudson was in France trying to get treatment not available in the United States, but Nancy Reagan refused his request for the White House to help. BuzzFeed tells the story for the first time, explaining that after Hudson collapsed on July 21, 1985, shortly after arriving in Paris, he was admitted to the American Hospital. But he wanted to see Dr. Dominique Dormant, the French army doctor who had been working on experimental AIDS treatment HPA-23 and who had secretly treated him months after his diagnosis. Dormant, however, couldn't get Hudson transferred to the military hospital, so over the next 10 days—as the public first became aware that Hudson was gay and had AIDS—his team made a number of desperate attempts to get help, including sending a telegram to the White House. Hudson was friendly with then-president Ronald Reagan from their acting days.

The July 24 telegram pleaded with the White House to request that the commanding officer reconsider admitting Hudson to the military hospital. The Reagan staffer who received the telegram spoke to Nancy Reagan, but he recommended she refer the issue to the US Embassy in France because, he tells BuzzFeed, "the Reagans were very conscious of not making exceptions for people just because they were friends of theirs or celebrities." She agreed, and though her husband called Hudson to wish him well, the official response was that Nancy Reagan "did not feel this was something the White House should get into." Her spokesperson recently asked Reagan about the story at BuzzFeed's request, and says she "simply does not recall the incident in question." Dormant was eventually able to treat Hudson, but his condition was too advanced. Click for the full piece. (More Nancy Reagan stories.)

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