Monday, December 10, 2007

Huckabee Says He Will Not 'Recant' 1992 Comments on HIV/AIDS

Kaiser Daily: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, on Sunday said that he will not "recant" statements made in 1992 in which he called for people living with HIV/AIDS to be isolated from the general population, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports. Huckabee -- who made the statements in an Associated Press survey while running for Senate that year -- wrote that in order for the federal government to effectively address the spread of HIV, "we need to take steps that would isolate the carries of this plague." He added in the survey, "It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents" (AP/International Herald Tribune, 12/9).

Huckabee in the 1992 survey also said that HIV/AIDS research was receiving too much federal funding, The Politico reports. "In light of the extraordinary funds already being given for AIDS research, it does not seem that additional federal spending can be justified," Huckabee wrote. "An alternative would be to request that multimillionaire celebrities -- such as Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna and others who are pushing for more AIDS funding -- be encouraged to give out of their own personal treasuries increased amounts for AIDS research," he added (Allen, The Politico, 12/8). In addition, Huckabee in the survey said that homosexuality was an "aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk," the Washington Post reports.

Campaign Response

Huckabee's campaign on Saturday released a statement from him saying that in 1992 there was confusion over how HIV is transmitted. "We now know that the virus that causes AIDS is spread differently, with a lower level of contact than with TB," Huckabee said in the statement, adding, "But looking back almost 20 years, my concern was the uncertain risk to the general population -- if we got it wrong, many people would die needlessly." (of course, Huckabee's statement is dead wrong because we knew a whole lot more about HIV/AIDS in 1992 than his statement suggests). Huckabee also pledged to make the fight against HIV/AIDS a central part of his presidency if elected (Bacon, Washington Post, 12/9). Huckabee in the statement released Saturday added that his "concern was safety first, political correctness last." Huckabee responded to the 1992 Associated Press survey after it was "well established" that HIV could not be spread through casual contact, the New York Times reports (Luo, New York Times, 12/9). In addition, Huckabee responded to the 1992 survey more than one year after President George H.W. Bush called on Congress to "get on with the job of passing a law" to prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, according to the AP/Herald Tribune. Although Huckabee acknowledged the prevailing scientific view in 1992, and since, that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact, he said he was not certain at the time. Huckabee cited a 1991 report of a dentist who infected a patient with HIV -- an "extraordinary case that highlighted the risk of infection through contact with blood or bodily fluids" -- according to the AP/Herald Tribune.

Huckabee in an interview with Fox News Channel's "Fox News Sunday" said, "I still believe this today" that "we were acting more out of political correctness" in responding to HIV/AIDS. "I don't run from it, I don't recant it," he said of his statements in 1992. He added that his comments were not meant as a call to quarantine HIV-positive people. "I didn't say we should quarantine," Huckabee said, adding that his idea was not to "lock people up" (AP/International Herald Tribune, 12/9). However, Huckabee added that he would state his position "a little differently" today, the Wall Street Journal reports (Meckler, Wall Street Journal, 12/10).

A transcript of the "Fox News Sunday" segment is available online.


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