WASHINGTON – GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said Sunday he won't run from his statement 15 years ago that AIDS patients should have been isolated.
Huckabee acknowledged the prevailing scientific view then, and since, that the virus that causes AIDS is not spread through casual contact, but said that was not certain. He cited revelations in 1991 that a dentist had infected a patient in an extraordinary case that highlighted the risk of infection through contact with blood or bodily fluids.
"I still believe this today," he said in a broadcast interview, 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.
Huckabee, as a Senate candidate that year, told The Associated Press 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 said then.
In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," the former Arkansas governor denied 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."
Huckabee stated his 1992 positions in an AP questionnaire in which he also called homosexuality "an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle."
He outlined is views 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, the virus that causes AIDS.
"There is only one way to deal with an individual who is sick — with dignity, compassion, care, confidentiality and without discrimination," Bush said in a speech on March 29, 1990. He also urged Congress "to get on with the job of passing a law" to prohibit discrimination against people infected with AIDS or HIV.
GOP presidential rival Rudy Giuliani declined to discuss the matter during a separate television interview Sunday, except to say he had heard Huckabee say it was not "his current position."
"I have enough of my own statements and issues that I have to deal with," the former New York mayor said, laughing.
Giuliani, who appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press," said in response to a question that he did not believe homosexuality was aberrant.
"The way somebody leads their life isn't sinful. It's the acts," said Giuliani, who supports gay rights and lived with an openly gay couple after separating from his second wife while mayor. "It's the various acts that people perform that are sinful, not the orientation that they have."