presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's 15-year-old comments
that AIDS patients should have been isolated have so alarmed
the mother of Ryan White, the teenager whose
life-ending battle with AIDS in the 1980s engrossed
the United States, that she has asked for a meeting.
''I would be very
willing to meet with them,'' the former Arkansas
governor responded Tuesday while campaigning in Iowa. ''I
would tell them we've come a long way in research, in
front-runner in Iowa's January 3 caucuses stood by his
1992 comments in a broadcast interview Sunday, infuriating
Jeanne White-Ginder, the late teen's mother and a
board member of the AIDS Institute.
alarming to me,'' she said in a telephone interview Monday
with the Associated Press.
important to me that we don't live in the darkness'' when
people thought HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was
transmitted through casual contact, such as by
''kissing, tears, sweat, and saliva,'' White-Ginder
said. ''We have to treat this disease like a disease, and
like Ryan always said, not like a dirty word.''
White was 13 when
he was diagnosed with AIDS in December 1984, having
contracted HIV from the blood-clotting agent used to treat
his hemophilia. He was barred from school the
following year out of fear the disease was spread
casually. He died in 1990 at age 18.
On Tuesday the
Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, and the AIDS
Institute sent a letter to Huckabee asking him to meet with
White-Ginder -- who declined in the interview to say
what political party she belongs to -- and calling his
comments ''completely beyond comprehension.''
Huckabee told reporters, ''I certainly never would want to
say anything that would be hurtful to them or anyone else. I
would have great regret and anxiety if I thought my
comments were hurtful or in any way added to the
already incredible pain that families have felt
regardless of how they contracted AIDS.''
Once an underdog,
the candidate has come under increased scrutiny as he
has soared to the front-running position in the important
Iowa caucuses and elsewhere over the past few weeks.
He has faced criticism in particular for his comments
on AIDS and his records on parole, taxes, and
immigration in his decade as governor, and those issues were
all but certain to be raised at a Republican debate in
Iowa on Wednesday.
He said he
expected more criticism to come.
''That's part of
the way we unfortunately do politics in America,''
Huckabee said. ''When you're a governor for 10-1/2 years you
make thousands of decisions every year. In office that
long, you're going to have a lot of decisions people
can pore through.''
As a U.S. Senate
candidate in 1992, Huckabee told the AP in a
questionnaire that ''we need to take steps that would
isolate the carriers of this plague'' if the federal
government was going to deal with the spread of the
disease effectively. ''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,'' he
In an interview
on Fox News Sunday, Huckabee denied that those
words were a call to quarantine the AIDS population,
although he did not explain how else isolation would
be achieved. ''I didn't say we should quarantine,'' he
said. The idea was not to ''lock people up.''
acknowledged the prevailing scientific view then and since,
that HIV is not spread through casual contact, but
said that was not certain.
''I still believe
this today,'' Huckabee said Sunday, that ''we were
acting more out of political correctness'' in responding to
the AIDS crisis. ''I don't run from it, I don't recant
it,'' he said of his position in 1992. Yet he said he
would state his view differently in retrospect.
his views in 1992 for the AP more than a year after
President George H.W. Bush, a fellow Republican, urged an
audience of business executives not to fire or
otherwise discriminate against employees infected with
HIV. (Liz Sidoti, AP)