Mayor John Duran Calls Out the Late President Bush for Ignoring HIV/AIDS

The West Hollywood City Council last night adjourned in memory of the late President George H. W. Bush. However Mayor John Duran took time to call out Bush for his failure to speak up about the AIDS epidemic during his term in office, which was from 1989 to 1993.

George H.W. Bush
“I just can’t sit completely silently about it,” Duran said after acknowledging to local resident Yola Dore had suggested the council acknowledge Bush’s death. “George Bush while he was in office was not an advocate for LGBT people at any time. Later in life he became an advocate for LGBT people.

“While he was in office he was a very timid president and responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of gay men along with Ronald Reagan, and that is why we all worked so emphatically to deny him a second term and elect Bill and Hillary Clinton to the White House to give us some hope. While I do have to give him credit for signing the American With Disabilities Act and the Ryan White Care Act, which he also signed.

“It was only when Ryan White put a face to HIV and AIDS that he found the backbone and the courage to talk about HIV and AIDS, completely ignoring the fact that there had been tens of thousands of gay men dead in the streets of our cities.”

Ryan White was a heterosexual teenage high school student in Kokomo, Ind., who was diagnosed with AIDS in December 1984 and given six months to live. He had become infected from infected blood injected during his treatment for hemophilia. White’s struggle to be re-admitted to high school after the diagnosis brought major attention to AIDS and prompted the passage of an act providing federal funding for treatment of HIV/AIDS that was signed by Bush.

Duran, who is gay and HIV positive, is one of a number of gay activists who have spoken up about Bush’s failure to address the AIDS epidemic. HIV is an infection that can lead to AIDS, which makes one vulnerable to death because of its suppression of the immune system. The AIDS epidemic was first noticed by doctors in 1981 in the gay community but became a major national issue by 1989. As of 2016, about 675,000 people have died of HIV/AIDS in the United States. The death rate has plummeted thanks to the introduction of a triple-drug therapy that blocks progression of the HIV virus.

The City Council traditionally adjourns in memory of locally and some nationally prominent people who have died, which involves a council member making a statement on behalf of the person who died.


36 Comments
  1. As a older Gay men living with HIV for 28 years, Bush was no supporter of Thr community. Those commenting on Duran’s behavior- look in your own back yard. Petty personal attacks are unnecessary and uncalled for. We should all be uniting and making the community a better place for all.

  2. After doing a small amount of research, it seems Mayor Duran’s comments were both inaccurate and unnecessarily critical of President Bush suggesting he was timid and was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of gay men. While VP to President Reagan he was not the decider. During the crisis, responsibility for one’s behavior also became an issue but one wonders how much responsibility folks took or now take in the current climate given available drugs. Mayor Duran remains a standard barer of sorts for Grindr and other reckless activities rather than behaving like a responsible, evolved adult. He also appears to exhibit broad stroke statements, heavy on hyperbole, is not interested in details and not often available for the heavy lifting but is always available for public recognition and promoting drinking and nightlife in West Hollywood.

  3. This falls in the category of opportunist and lack of class. The criticism is true and warranted but you’ve had decades to bring this up. Can we at least just wait a few days until the funeral is over to have the debate?

    1. There was no debate.

      I’d like to know how many people commenting here (especially anti-Duran) actually WATCHED the meeting (I did)? Listened to Yola’s public comment, Steve Martin’s public comment, Heilman’s, and Duran’s, in full context? He was merely stating his truth, as someone who was an AIDS activist while Bush was in office, and lost many friends to the epidemic. If I were him, I wouldn’t just sit there silently … no way. This was not opportunism. He was just speaking his truth, regardless of what you might think of him already.

      In this case, I think Duran is deserving of all of our respect, even if you don’t agree with him. Even if Bush did a turnaround, later in life, or signed the ADA bill (which he acknowledged). I was lucky enough to be a teenager at this time, so I didn’t witnessed dozens of my friends die, while our federal government did virtually nothing, for years. But I did come out at a time when we didn’t have meds to control the epidemic, and those were still scary times.

      I personally believe Bush and Reagan both have blood on their hands, even if I think Bush did many honorable things (like serve for our country, and things later in life).

  4. The list of politicians who have in every meaningful way dodged crucial human issues is endless and tragic. George H W Bush had been party to most of the heinous crimesl perpetrated against the American people not the least of which goes back to the death of JFK. If we as a people don’t stop idolizing those embedded in the power elite we will not survive the coming decades. We must study and begin to realize the tragedies that have been perpetrated against us in the name of power, money, greed and prestige. I have come late to the game but am realizing how much we need to open our eyes and see what is happening. We are definitely not in Kansas anymore.

  5. Thank you John Duran, Dan Wentzel, and Ken Howard for reminding everyone for the lack of action GHW Bush took during the height of the AIDS epidemic as both VP under Reagan and as the 41st President. No thank you to all the GHW Bush apologists here and elsewhere, especially the fake profiles, that are trying their damn best to silence those that were forever impacted by his lack of action.

  6. Ken Howard said it best, below.

    I have yet to watch the Council Meeting, but I doubt that Duran was “grandstanding” by making this statement, or trying to make it about him. Whether you love Duran or not, he’s devoted a lot of his life to AIDS activism, and pursuing the rights of LGBT people.

    I think there are so many commenters on this site that are just hell-bent on calling him an “attention whore” for anything he says or does.

    For those of you calling him out, how many of you were there, spending your lives fighting for LGBT rights or trying to get our government to pay attention to AIDS when Bush or Reagan were in office (and I don’t mean just ranting to your friends about it, like we have social media for, now)?

    John Duran deserves our respect for doing that. And if I had been there to do what he did, I wouldn’t just sit there with my mouth shut when the Council decides to close the meeting, honoring GHWB. I would have said something, just like he did.

  7. Duran hit the nail on the head.

    We shouldn’t be whitewashing or sanitizing Bush’s tenure as President just because he died. I am glad he made a personal journey towards becoming more accepting. But as President he openly pandered to anti-gay bigots, and that influenced his Administration’s AIDS Policy.

    He may have signed the Ryan White Act, but it certainly wasn’t his idea.

    Bush was a patriot, a war hero, a devoted family man, and his good qualities should absolutely be celebrated. But that doesn’t erase history or his other actions in this area. I found it offensive that some people thought we were supposed to be silent about this on the 30th World AIDS Day just because he passed away the day before.

  8. History is a complicated study, one which will forever be analyzed and rewritten and reinterpreted. Most figures in history have done remarkable things and sometimes things for which history will not look kindly. On the totality of ones place in history however, George H.W. Bush was a dedicated and selfless public servant who led with dignity, grace and humility. Unlike the often bombastic and always attention-seeking antics of the so-called mayor, however, I don’t think George H.W. Bush had a pompous bone in his body.

    I will let history record the good and the bad of policy, but I will spend this week respecting the life of a good and decent person. The timing of other comments indicates a lack of civility and manners, which take on a trumpian lack of maturity.

  9. I realize that in a city like West Hollywood, and in gay culture, that Youth is prized and worshiped. But speaking as an “old guy”, I’m totally pulling rank here and saying, “Listen, children, I was THERE. I SAW it!”, and that’s why I totally agree with John Duran’s comments. I worked tirelessly in 1992 as a social work graduate student to campaign for Bill Clinton, because Clinton’s candidacy gave us hope during the height of the AIDS epidemic (and, remember, in a Recession that Republican policies caused). Clinton’s campaign was all about hope: Clinton, in a speech/debate with GHW Bush, said, “If you won’t use your power to help this country, step aside, I WILL!”. I saw many friends die of AIDS while Reagan and Bush did virtually nothing. Bush signing the Americans with Disabilities Act was to force employers to hire people with disabilities to reduce the number of people on government financial aid like SSDI and SSI, not because he was this great humanitarian. He signed the Ryan White CARE Act only after relentless pressure. George HW Bush, and ALL REPUBLICANS, have been no friend to people living with HIV/AIDS EVER, and certainly not to the LGBT community. I concur with Duran in refusing to canonize GHW Bush. Duran worked much harder than I ever did, as an activist, but I still did a lot. And we were motivated by the rage at the injustice that Bush and his fellow Republicans enacted. The election of Clinton was an emancipation of 12 years of Republican rule under Reagan/Bush, and was like a breath of fresh air. Good riddance to Bush, and to ALL REPUBLICANS. And kudos to John Duran and all the activists who stood up against injustice, and survived (even living with HIV today) to tell the tale today. I have devoted my entire professional life to HIV mental health, LGBT mental health, and to fighting the kind of injustices that Bush and his Republican cronies represent. Duran is my inspiration as well, as he works tirelessly for social justice. We’re still here, and we’re still fighting those injustices, and proud of it!

    1. Sometimes finding social justice becomes an awareness rather than a fight. The “Me, Myself & I” folks could hopefully evolve and determine what they might be doing to perpetuate that which they are fighting. It’s like Big Pharma always miraculously producing a cure….that one pays dearly for but not putting their weight behind finding the source.

      1. That’s fair, and he might have come around, but I don’t think the City of West Hollywood should be closing a meeting in his honor, just because he learned later in life to be supportive of the LGBT population and/or the AIDS epidemic. He had an opportunity to do something about it when it mattered, and didn’t. How many people died would have loved to live a fulfilling life like his, until the age of 94, or even half that age?

    2. There is so much I could comment on with which I disagree, but there’s no point. I will add, however, that there is no person in history who has done more for the continent of Africa, and particularly with regards to HIV treatment and AIDS patients, than George W. Bush.

      Just thought I would throw that out there.

      By the way, I’ve been in West Hollywood since 1978.

  10. A cringeworthy moment, unfortunately not the first from Mayor Duran. Any awareness would have shown the Mayor that this was a demonstrable and teachable moment that should be contemplated, eloquently illustrated by Yola Dore’s comments and the lifelong journey of George H.W Bush, dedicated to a mission of service. No one has all the right answers at the right time but it becomes an evolutionary journey to the mountaintop, each traveling their own path. Last night’s demonstration was a character revealing moment.

    My early private school had a motto: “Skill, Service & Honor” with the greatest of these attributes being honor. It was a school known to my Mother who had been introduced to its Founder by Eleanor Roosevelt. My Mother would also have the remarkable occasion to call upon President Roosevelt to right a terrible wrong in wartime which he did. The character defining attributes of these people has been with my family and me for a lifetime.

    Hopefully, the passing of George H.W. Bush is not the end of an era but a beginning in the renewal of these timeless qualities embodied by many members of his close team and spoken of by those literally and figuratively across the aisle and spectrum from him.

    Tomorrow could be Day One in West Hollywood.

  11. Kudos to Yola Dore for a brave public comment and very much appreciate John Heilman asking to adjourn in the name of the George HW Bush. I’m extremely disappointed in the tone at this time while the man is being laid to rest. Bush did not kill anybody. Reagan did not kill anybody. The whole notion that either one of those man did not care about people, or people with hiv/aids is political crap. Bush landmark legislation of both the American for Disabilities and Ryan White were at that time the most advanced pieces of legislation in the history of our country. Yes many had to fight to be heard. And its with great respect for Duran and his fight should be commended. But there is something called grace and dignity and respect of a public official and the West Hollywood City Council fell way short in appreciating the contributions of our 41st President. We honor Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenati and dont honor a lifetime of public service by a humble man who brought had more diversity in his inner circle with Colin Powell and Condolezza Rice, then any before him… well.. it bothers me. our city council that fights for everything all over the world should take a higher road.

    1. I think If you were in Duran’s position, you might not just sit there silently adjourning in Bush’s honor. Duran lost dozens of friends, and was an AIDS activist at the time. He’s just putting things into context. And if I had journeyed down his road, I think I would’ve done the same.

      1. Amen, Randy! Anyone who lived through the epicenter of the AIDS crisis and lives to this day gets the right to call out those who did nothing, did little, or made it all worse. George HW Bush and ALL REPUBLICANS have done NOTHING to help those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS in the entire history of the epidemic. If I had the time, I would do nothing but eat at all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets, snack on laxatives, and blow diarrhea all over Reagan’s gravestone, and his little protege Little Greedy Greedy Georgie Porgie can get the same. Those of us who survived speak for those who can’t, because they died of it. I don’t believe in Hell, but Reagan and Bush should be there.

    2. Larry, spot on! When Duran’s time comes…I would like to think that the future council will take a moment to remember all the good he did for the city and I would hope that the future council would not stop the remembrance to bring up his hiring of his “hook-up” or looking at a sex app during a council meeting or honoring a prostitute with the keys to the city (etc. etc.). Although, what goes around comes around and perhaps since he felt the need to act without dignity and grace on Monday evening it will come back to him when his time comes.

      1. I don’t think Duran’s “sex scandal” could be compared, at all, to a president ignoring thousands and thousands of people dying from a plague. Seriously?

        Did you actually watch this meeting? Did you see these comments in full context? Including public comment, and Council member comment? I did.

          1. Oh, I totally got your point. You think Duran is creating bad karma by not fully honoring Bush (he did agree to close the meeting in Bush’s honor, btw). You hope that Duran won’t be recognized fully when his time comes, as a result, and hope a future City Council will acknowledge his “sex scandal.”

            That still draws a comparison, and I find that to be pretty outrageous. Comparing a person in the most powerful position on the planet, having mostly ignored a crisis that cost thousands of people their lives, vs. Duran not reporting a prior sexual relationship to HR, as he should have (what happened from there, was “he said, he said,” and I personally think Owens was not harassed, but was a vindictive opportunist, looking for a pay out).

            Duran was right to speak up, and if I was in his position, I would have, also, if I had walked in his shoes during that awful time.

  12. Duran couldn’t even wait for President George H. W. Bush to be buried before using Bush’s death in his craving for personal attention. I don’t want to flatter Duran by comparing him to a president, even a president as clueless & repulsive as Donald Trump, but I do think they share some qualities, like narcissism, false self importance & being so perilously out of touch with reality, that they create their own. How will Duran fulfill his lust for media attention when he is no longer on the city council & his public visibility is diminished? He’ll likely find a way

  13. As an older gay man in the 80’s at the onset of HIV Aids George Bush was not the only person who lacked an understanding of the disease. His landmark legislation for all persons with disabilities and the Ryan White act, his Uniter not a Divider tone was something very much needed. Duran simply only understands himself and showboating and running to the TV cameras for personal gain. When it comes to morals And public service John Duran has a lot he should have learned from George Bush. Dignity for one thing. It’s time for John Duran to go.

    1. While I am saddened by the passing of former President George H. W. Bush and am glad to see the Council show respect to him and his family by adjourning in his memory, I appreciate that Duran took time to remind us of the history. Our actions, and many times our choice of inaction, have consequences. If we don’t know the history, we’ve learned nothing and risk repeating it.

    2. It is NOT that George HW Bush “lacked understanding” of the disease. He WILLFULLY IGNORED it. He was the friggin’ President of the United States; he had the best medical minds on the planet ready to take his phone call if he needed to “understand” the disease more, plus an entire Department of Health and Human Services working in service to him. He only cared about uniting the RICH into getting more money and destroying the American Middle Class like his buddy Reagan started. Don’t re-write history. And George HW Bush was NOT anyone to teach “dignity” when he allowed people dying of AIDS to languish in their own shit from lack of care. Go? Duran should be elected President himself, for his tireless devotion to the well-being of the entire LGBT community and certainly for the legal rights and dignity of people living with HIV/AIDS for decades. For Chrissakes, people, learn some gratitude and stop indulging the internalized homophobia and sex negativity that Duran critics are so obsessively sick with. (And AIDS is an acronym. Learn to write.)

Leave a Comment

No profanity, and please focus on the issue rather than attacking other commenters. All comments are moderated and must be focused on the issue, not other commenters.