A popular myth that has been circulating around the right-wing tells the story of how the noble Donald Trump “saved” a young boy’s life by paying for his medical treatment. That story, surprisingly enough, is far from true.
Young Ryan White became a national symbol for the AIDS/HIV epidemic when he became infected at 13 by a tainted blood donation for his hemophilia. He was shunned and ostracized by his community during a time when the pathology behind HIV/AIDS was yet to be understood; people believed that, for instance, HIV could be spread through sensory contact, leading to half the children in his school to be held at home and the subscribers to his newspaper route to cancel.
People screamed “we know you’re queer!” at him on the street, according to his mother. The family was forced to move after a bullet was fired through their living room window. White became a national spokesman for HIV/AIDS awareness and against bullying before his untimely death in 1990.
A rumor has circulated for years purporting that Republican Donald Trump “paid for” his medical treatments – a rumor that was firmly debunked by White’s mother in an interview with the Indianapolis Star. Trump did not pay for any medical treatments; however, he did visit the boy with music superstar Michael Jackson, with whom Trump was trying to arrange a business deal. “Donald was here maybe five minutes and then left” said Jeanne White Ginder. Trump’s sole contribution to the child’s welfare was to use him for a photo-op.
She also condemned Trump for his constant bullying of anyone who dares to cross him, accusing him of setting a poor example for American children. “Not respecting women, making fun of the handicapped — that really concerns me. How can we expect our kids not to bully when a person who is running for president bullies? Kids are going to grow up and think it’s OK to say the things he does. It’s wrong, it’s bullying, and it’s what we’re trying so hard to stop. We need to teach our kids to be respectful to everybody.”
Many parents and teachers are already voicing their concerns about the impact Donald Trump’s appalling behavior is having on their children and students. Trump is showing our entire nation that he believes sexual assault and the objectification of women is just what men do; that non-white and disabled Americans are subhumans worthy of deportation and ridicule; that bullying is an acceptable way to behave. If we are to draw anything from the tragic story of Ryan White, it’s how deeply traumatizing bullying can be to vulnerable people – and how abhorrent this false story is, since Donald Trump has shown time and time again he cares for nobody but himself.