Larry Kramer was an expert at getting attention. But his 1988 open letter to Dr. Anthony Fauci, in which he accused the "idiot" director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of failures in the AIDS epidemic, got him much more: a friend of more than three decades. "How did I meet Larry? He called me a murderer and an incompetent idiot on the front page of the San Francisco Examiner magazine," Fauci tells the New York Times, noting he later reached out to the activist, who died Wednesday at 84. "We realized we had things in common," says Fauci. "I was the one out there trying to warn the public, and he was, too."
He adds Kramer apologized for his critique, saying it was a means of getting things done. The two grew close over the years, though they often appeared as rivals on TV. "I'd say, 'Larry, you just trashed me in front of 10 million people.' And he'd say, 'Oh, I was just trying to get some attention,'" says Fauci. But "we loved each other," he adds, noting he helped arrange a liver transplant for Kramer, which added years to the activist's life, after becoming his doctor in 2001. "It was an extraordinary 33-year relationship," says Fauci. "He was making some very important points that we in the 'establishment' needed to listen to," the doctor tells PBS NewsHour. "He had extraordinary courage to speak out and challenge the system." (Read more Larry Kramer stories.)