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Kokomo Mayor Swamped With Angry Calls Following Ryan White TV Movie

January 18, 1989

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) _ The mayor has been swamped with calls from angry viewers of the television movie about AIDS victim Ryan White, he said Wednesday.

″They’ve been calling giving us thunder,″ Robert F. Sargent said.

Sargent has received calls from as far away as Arizona and New Hampshire, questioning him about the actions portrayed in ″The Ryan White Story.″

The movie, broadcast Monday night on ABC, starred George C. Scott, Judith Light and Lukas Haas.

It told the saga of White, a hemophiliac who was barred from classes at Western Middle School in nearby Russiaville after he was diagnosed as having acquired immune deficiency syndrome in December 1984.

Ryan and his family successfully took the school corporation to court. They won another legal battle when some of his classmates’ parents tried to get an injunction keeping him out of school.

The movie also depicted the harassment allegedly suffered by the Whites during their legal struggle.

Some Kokomo residents complained Tuesday that the movie left the impression that their entire community was against Ryan and his family.

Sargent said many of the viewers who called his office also got that impression.

″They wanted to know why we’d do what we did to Ryan,″ he said. ″I talked to each one and I think I turned a few heads.″

Sargent, who was not mayor at the time of the dispute, said he told the callers that many in the community - including the local ministerial alliance, newspaper editors and health officials - had supported Ryan’s return to classes.

Ryan, who is now 17, returned to school in 1986. He has since moved to Cicero and attends Hamilton Heights High School.

The A.C. Nielsen Co. estimated that 15 million viewers saw the movie.

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