Republican presidential candidate refusing to return calls to set up meeting, despite commitment to talk to mother of AIDS victim
Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White and a board member of The AIDS Institute, along with officials at the Human Rights Campaign and The AIDS Institute are still waiting to meet with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee after he committed to meeting and discussing his 1992 remarks that people living with HIV and AIDS should have been “isolated.”
Ryan White was 13 when he was diagnosed with AIDS in December 1984, after being infected with HIV through a blood transfusion to treat his hemophilia. He battled both the disease and public perception after community members convinced school officials not to allow him to attend classes, helping shift people’s idea of AIDS away from being a disease affecting only gay men.
Ryan White died in 1990 at the age of 19.
Huckabee, a Republican presidential candidate, said Dec. 11 that he would be “very willing to meet with” White-Ginder and other AIDS advocates after he was questioned on the campaign trail about his comments in the early 1990s.
But Huckabee has yet to make good on that promise.
“We are still waiting for the meeting,” said A. Gene Copello, executive director of The AIDS Institute. “It is our sincere hope that Gov. Huckabee will keep his word” to meet with White-Ginder.
HRC President Joe Solmonese said Huckabee’s campaign has refused to return any calls about setting up such a meeting.
“Is Governor Huckabee a man of his word or is this just more typical political double-speak?” Solmonese said. “It has been 29 days, Jeanne White-Ginder and the HIV/AIDS advocacy community continues to wait.”
Solmonese and Copello said the two organizations sent letters to Huckabee’s campaign on Dec. 10 and again on Dec. 12. The second letter said the groups were looking forward to “discussing our experiences and personal insight with you and your campaign. This was not and is not an issue of “‘political correctness,’ as you have stated previously. Rather, this is an issue of valuing science-based evidence over unfounded fear or prejudice.”
Huckabee called White-Ginder directly two weeks after the initial letter and agreed to the meeting, the men said, but since then, Coppelo’s calls to the candidate have gone unanswered.
As a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in 1992, Huckabee answered 229 questions submitted to him by The Associated Press.
The Senate candidate wrote in response to the questionnaire: “It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. 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.”
As the Associated Press recently reported, “When Huckabee wrote his answers in 1992, it was common knowledge that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 11, 2008