Burt Reynolds is in some serious hot water after he made some insensitive comments about Charlie Sheen’s HIV status.
He talked about Charlie and his recent confession about being HIV positive during a British talk show called Loose Women. The interview was aired Tuesday, People reported.
Host Ruth Langsford did pose some very direct questions to Reynolds about Sheen and his health, and Burt, 79, stepped up to the plate, offering some pointed criticism of the actor and the lifelong habit of misbehavior that he believes caused his illness.
“He’s handled it badly, I think. His father is a very, very decent man and a dear friend of mine. I feel bad for him but Charlie, I don’t feel bad for him. He’s getting what he deserves. If you’re going to misbehave like that, they’re going to get you.”
According to the Independent, Langsford followed up that comment by asking, point blank, whether Reynolds harbored any sympathy for the fellow actor.
Burt Reynolds: Charlie Sheen Is “Getting What He Deserves”: https://t.co/4bGjTCIqRb
— Mike Greenwood (@bestarticles4u) December 8, 2015
“Charlie? No. He deserves it. He misbehaved badly, very badly. But you know, when you’re that age, it’s tough. All those things are coming at you and it’s difficult.”
Let’s not forget a few things about Burt’s past. Like Sheen, he’s also famous for the number of women he’s taken to bed. And in the 1980s, Reynolds was rumored to have been dying of AIDS himself. One would think that a fairly similar sexual past and a brush with such rumors would foster empathy in the older actor — perhaps more so than many.
No such luck.
A couple years ago, Reynolds had previously addressed his own AIDS rumors, according to ET. The rumors arose in the 1980s after he lost tons of weight, which Burt explained in his memoir But Enough About Me was caused by a painkiller addiction. To combat the gossip, he said he just “kept working,” calling that time in his life a “really … awful period.”
Back in Britain, people swiftly criticized any implication that Sheen deserved to get the virus. The executive director of the Terrence Higgins Trust — an HIV/AIDS charity — Shaun Griffin, said it wasn’t right for anyone to be considered “deserving” of any sickness.
Shocked by Burt Reynolds talking about Charlie Sheen on @loosewomen, "he's getting what he deserves." Just wow!
— Alex Burkill (@WeatherAlex) December 8, 2015
Did Burt Reynolds really just say Charlie Sheen deserved what he got? #loosewomen
— Madeleine Rich (@MadeleineRich) December 8, 2015
“Nor is it correct for any of us to judge how a person becomes HIV positive, or speculate on its inevitability.”
Though when Charlie admitted to Matt Lauer and the world that he was living with the virus two weeks ago, he did point to some lifestyle choices that contributed to his diagnosis, the New York Daily News reported, lending at least a little bit of weight to Burt’s ill-advised comments.
Sheen, 50, admitted to some bad behavior and to sleeping with prostitutes, theorizing that he may have contracted the disease because of his sexual promiscuity. And to Burt’s contention that Sheen has handled his sickness “badly,” he did spend “countless millions” in “shakedowns” to keep his HIV status secret.
Some, however, are lauding Charlie for his public admission of a private illness. A Huffington Post article on the story actually thanks the actor for talking about it, because his confession is making everyone talk about the disease again.
— Mashable (@mashable) December 4, 2015
“What is important is the fact that his disclosing the information got people once again talking — or at least thinking — about HIV,” wrote Susan Sommercamp. “Not that America had forgotten about (it) — we just hadn’t remembered it like we used to. And there’s a difference.”
When the virus emerged in the 90s, everyone was scared to death, and that fear led to tons of information being released, discussed, and analyzed through the media. Today, medical advancement means the disease isn’t a death sentence, and the “conversation slowed.”
Charlie’s confession may bring discussion front and center again, benefitting a new generation of youth who need to be aware of the virus and its dangers.
And perhaps Reynolds’ harsh words, ugly as they are, can start a conversation, too — about sexuality, safe sex, and personal responsibility.
[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]