This past Sunday, Huckabee was asked about his 1992 statements about AIDS on Fox News Sunday, and refused to recant or revise his remarks. From the transcript:
It now turns out that when you ran for the Senate back in 1992, you called for quarantining AIDS patients, you opposed increased federal funding to find a cure, and you also said that homosexuality was a, quote, “sinful lifestyle that could pose a dangerous health risk.” Do you stand by any of that now, Governor?
HUCKABEE: Chris, I didn’t say that we should quarantine. I said it was the first time in public health protocols that when we had an infectious disease and we didn’t really know just how extensive and how dramatic it could be and the impact of it, that we didn’t isolate the carrier.
Now, the headlines yesterday started saying that I called for quarantines, which if you’ll go back and read my comments, I did not.
I had simply made the point, and I still believe this today, that in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when we didn’t know as much as we do now about AIDS, we were acting more out of political correctness than we were about the normal public health protocols that we would have acted — as we have recently, for example, with avian flu, which — I spent hours and hours, and months, in fact, as a governor dealing with a pandemic plan that we were looking at which called for isolating carriers if they contracted that disease.
WALLACE: But, Governor, forgive me. I don’t think that’s right. All the way back in 1985, this wasn’t political correctness. The Centers for Disease Control back in ‘85, seven years before you made your statement, said that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact.
HUCKABEE: There was also the case of Kimberly Bergalis, who testified before Congress in 1991. She had contracted AIDS from her dentist.
We didn’t think that there was a casual transmission. There were studies that showed that. But there were other concerns being voiced by public health officials.
Now, would I say things a little differently in 2007? Probably so. But I’m not going to recant or retract from the statement that I did make because, again, the point was not saying we ought to lock people up who have HIV/AIDS.
I knew people who had AIDS. I had a close friend who died of it in the 1980s. He was a hemophiliac. He contracted it through a blood transfusion. I had other friends of mine, one of whom passed away — he was, in fact, homosexual.
But my point is that I was trying to talk about the different public health protocols that we were dealing with. I think what it really does show, though, is that when people are digging back into everything I’ve ever said and done — and I understand that, it’s part of the political process.
But what I’m not going to do is to go back and now try to change every story I’ve ever had. I’m going to simply say that that was exactly what I said. I don’t run from it, don’t recant from it.
Would I say it a little differently today? Sure, in light of 15 years of additional knowledge and understanding, I would.
Huckabee’s response is both disingenuous and disturbing. First, it is disingenuous for Huckabee to say that he did not call for a quarantine. As I noted here, Huckbee called for isolating all carriers of the AIDS virus — a quarantine in all but name (see, e.g. here).
As I explained here, my correspondent notes below, and Wallace notes in the interview, this was an extremely irresponsible position for Huckabee to take at the time. Under standard public health protocols there was no case for “isolating” (i.e. quarantining) AIDS patients. By 1992, it was well understood that AIDS was not easily transmittable, and neither the tragic Bergalis episode or other events Huckabee and his campaign cite suggest otherwise.
Confronted with an outrageous policy statement from his past — not a casual public comment but a statement he made in writing — what does Huck do? Does he acknowledge the error? No. He says he “still believes . . . today” that insufficient measures were taken to “isolate” AIDS patients in the late 1980s and early 1990s and that he’s “not going to recant or retract from the statement that I did make,” conceding only that he’d choose his words more carefully and “say it a little differently today.”
[Note: Just a reminder, while NR is pro-Romney, I’m pro-Fred and anti-Huck.]