Cheney Accused of Insensitivity to Blacks

Two black members of Congress said Wednesday that Vice President Dick Cheney (search) was insensitive and out of touch with black voters and with the AIDS fight after remarks Cheney made during his debate with Sen. John Edwards (search).

Rep. Bobby Rush (search), D-Ill., in response to a reporter's question during a conference call about whether Cheney was a racist, said the vice president's record was "indicative of a person who, if he's not a racist, he's quickly approaching that definition."

As part of a question Tuesday night, moderator Gwen Ifill (search) cited a statistic that black women between 25 and 44 "are 13 times more likely to die of the disease than their counterparts."

Cheney called the AIDS crisis "a great tragedy" and added: "I have not heard those numbers with respect to African-American women. I was not aware that it was — that they're in epidemic there, because we have made progress in terms of the overall rate of AIDS infection."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (search), blacks accounted for half of the 42,000 estimated AIDS cases diagnosed among U.S. adults in 2002. Black women had a 23 times greater diagnoses rate than white women.

Rep. Barbara Lee (search), D-Calif., said the Bush administration "did not have a clue" about the black community, and that "one has to figure out based on a person's record where the attitudes are coming from."

Cheney, at the debate, said progress in stamping out AIDS was being made primarily through a combination of education, public awareness and research into drugs that allow those with AIDS infections to live longer. "Obviously we need to do more of that," Cheney said.