What the Huck? Mike responds to Ryan White's mother
The AP found that Mike Huckabee advocated "isolating" people with HIV back in '92 and opposed increasing funding for AIDS research, years after we knew that HIV wasn't transmitted through casual contact. He said on Fox News this Sunday that he stands by that statement, that it was appropriate back then.
December 10, 2007
Dear Governor Huckabee:
In 1984, a young boy living in Indiana was diagnosed with AIDS. At the time, that boy, thirteen year-old Ryan White, had no idea that his life would become a testament of courage and bravery responsible for opening the hearts and minds of millions of people throughout our country and around the world. Six years later, in 1990, Ryan’s life ended -- a dear, precious life cut short. But Ryan’s death wasn’t the only tragedy in this well-known story in our country’s history. Ryan and his family’s battle with HIV/AIDS was also a stark reminder of what happens in our country when fear and ignorance go unchecked. Governor Huckabee, the Ryan White family was ridiculed, shunned and ostracized by people who thought the answer was to “isolate” them far away from the rest of society. In 1984, this belief was purely based on ignorance. But these same beliefs, which you espoused in 1992 and have refused to recant today, as a candidate for President of the United States, are completely beyond comprehension.
When you answered the Associated Press questionnaire in 1992, we, in fact, knew a great deal about how HIV was transmitted. Four years earlier, in 1988, the Reagan Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a brochure assuring the American public that “you won’t get the AIDS virus through every day contact with the people around you in school, in the workplace, at parties, child care centers, or stores.” To call for such an oppressive and severe policy like “isolation,” when the scientific community and federal government were certain about how HIV is transmitted was then, and remains today, irresponsible. Such statements should be completely repudiated, not simply dismissed as needing to be slightly reworded.
This was not and is not an issue of “political correctness,” as you state. Rather, this is an issue of valuing science-based evidence over unfounded fear or prejudice.
Have we not learned the difficult lesson of how devastating these statements based in ignorance and fear can be to American families? Has it been so long ago that we have forgotten how our neighbors had the backs of entire communities turned on them? Governor Huckabee, those dark moments in American history are the direct result of ignorant views that stifle discussion, hinder resources and delay action. We have a moral obligation as a nation to never allow ourselves to repeat the shameful mistakes of the past. And we cannot sit idly by when a candidate for President of the United States tries to lead us back down that path of ignorance and fear.
Governor Huckabee, if you need a reminder of how calls for “isolation” can shatter a Mother’s heart, you only need to turn to Jeanne White-Ginder. Today, we respectfully ask you to sit down with her and allow her to share with you Ryan’s story. Ms. White-Ginder continues to be active in AIDS advocacy as a member of the board of The AIDS Institute. We hope that, even in 2007, Ryan’s story can continue to open hearts and minds.
We would be happy to facilitate a meeting between Ms. White-Ginder and yourself, or a member of your staff. Please feel free to contact Brad Luna, Communications Director for the Human Rights Campaign, at (202) 216-1514 at your convenience.
Human Rights Campaign
A. Gene Copello
The AIDS Institute
I don't know about the Ryan White angle. I know, I know, he's sympathetic and can't be blamed for his illness, but I found it exacerbating back when no one would care about gay men getting the disease that once a someone put a presumable heterosexual face on it, people cared.
But when it comes to politics, whatever works, I guess. And I can't fault Ryan White's mother for any of that.
So Huckabee responded while on the trail in Iowa, and this is priceless:
I would be very willing to meet with them [Ryan White's parents]. I would tell them we've come a long way in research, in treatment.
So his answer is to lie some more.
That's been his framing so far: he claims that we didn't really know how the disease was transmitted back in 1992 and that his statements were appropriate at the time. While that's simply not true, it sounds decent to people who don't know or don't care.
His answers to the questionnaire betray a whole lot more than his thoughts on public health though. His nasty words about AIDS research and barely concealed homophobia show that he's not any sort of "compassionate conservative".
And the questionnaire helps explain his current pandering to and strategizing with the wackiest of the Religious Right, the sorts who'd be out with Fred Phelps if they weren't worried about remaining media-genic. And now he has to walk the fine line between appeasing his base and still remaining presentable to the population at large, and so he's invested in a false reading of history to make those comments sound a whole lot less "Westboro Baptist Church" and a whole lot more "concerned with public health."
It's pretty tiring how conservatives shamelessly abuse public health rhetoric to justify any policy regulating sexuality. If Huck were really concerned with solving AIDS, he could have advocated money for AIDS research, comprehensive sex education, and money for STD screenings and treatment, as well as lifting the global gag order and supporting universal health care.
But he really just wanted to lock some homos up. He could at least be honest about his reasoning.