Ed Koch was mayor of New York City from 1978-89, a period of time during which the AIDS epidemic broke out.
It’s a crisis that many have said Koch essentially ignored during his time in office.
He now writes movie reviews and this week turned his focus on the AIDS documentary How to Survive a Plague. It is the story of two coalitions – ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) – whose activism and innovation is credited with playing a crucial role in HIV-AIDS going from a death sentence to a manageable condition with the help of certain drugs.
Koch describes the film as ‘superb’ in his review and suggests that key ACT UP members including Larry Kramer should receive the highest national award in the US for a civilian.
‘I don’t know if these individuals were ever honored by the White House for what they did in fighting government and powerful corporations,’ Koch writes. ‘If not, I urge President Obama to do so by presenting them and other leaders recognized by Act Up with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.’
Koch lamented that only 10 people were in the audience when he saw the movie and added: ‘I urge our Chancellor of Education to show the documentary in our public schools. It would teach children a lot of lessons, the chief one being the community can, working together, speak truth to power and win.’
Kramer, who wrote the Tony Award winning play The Normal Heart, is anything but pleased to be getting praise from Koch.
‘What is this evil man up to as he approaches his death?’ Kramer writes of the 87-year-old Koch. ‘Is he trying to make up to us? National Medals of Freedom from the White House! Would these provide a big enough enema to clean out his rotten insides?’
‘We must never forget that this man was an active participant in helping us to die, in murdering us,’ Kramer adds. ‘Call it what you will, that is what Edward Koch was, a murderer of his very own people. There is no way to avoid knowing that now. The facts have long since been there staring us in the face. If we don’t see them, then we are as complicit as he.’
Peter Staley, one of the other people Koch recommends for a medal, reacted this way: ‘Does he really think plugging a White House medal for us is going to buy him forgiveness, or change our political views? I’m glad he saw the film, and gave it a positive review, but it was missing two words: ‘I’m sorry.’ Not to me. Not to Larry. But to the thousands lost, and all who still mourn them.’
Koch, a life-long bachelor, has steadfastly refused to discuss his sexuality amid widespread speculation that he is gay. Kramer lampoons Koch in The Normal Heart in which an AIDS activist laments that the only way to get the mayor’s attention is to ‘hire a hunky hustler and send him up to Gracie Mansion with our plea tattooed on his cock.’