Mike Huckabee once advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public, opposed increased federal funding in the search for a cure and said homosexuality could “pose a dangerous public health risk.”
As a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in 1992, Huckabee answered 229 questions submitted to him by the Associated Press. Besides a quarantine, Huckabee suggested that Hollywood celebrities fund AIDS research from their own pockets, rather than relying on federal health agencies.
Huckabee said Saturday that his comments came at a time when “the AIDS crisis was just that -- a crisis. We didn’t know exactly all the details of how extensive it was going to be. There was just a real panic in this country. If I were making those same comments today, I might make them a little differently.”
In 1992, Huckabee wrote: “If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague.
“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.”
The AP submitted the questionnaire to both candidates in that Senate race: Only Huckabee responded; incumbent Sen. Dale Bumpers won his fourth term. Huckabee was elected lieutenant governor the next year and became governor in 1996.
When asked about AIDS research in 1992, Huckabee said it received an unfair share of federal dollars compared to cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
“An alternative would be to request that multimillionaire celebrities, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna and others who are pushing for more AIDS funding be encouraged to give out of their own personal treasuries increased amounts for AIDS research,” he wrote.
At a news conference in Asheville, N.C., on Saturday, Huckabee said he wanted at the time to follow the traditional medical practices of quarantine or isolating disease carriers.
However, in 1992, it was common knowledge that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact. Since becoming a presidential candidate this year, Huckabee has supported increased federal funding for AIDS research through the National Institutes of Health.
“My administration will be the first to have an overarching strategy for dealing with HIV and AIDS here in the United States, with a partnership between the public and private sectors that will provide necessary financing and a realistic path toward our goals,” Huckabee said in a statement posted on his campaign website last month.
Also in the wide-ranging 1992 questionnaire, Huckabee said: “I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk.”
More recently, in 2003, Huckabee said that the U.S. Supreme Court was probably right to strike down anti-sodomy laws, but that states still should be able to restrict things such as same-sex marriage or domestic-partner benefits.
“What people do in the privacy of their own lives as adults is their business,” Huckabee said. “If they bring it into the public square and ask me as a taxpayer to support it or to endorse it, then it becomes a matter of public discussion and discourse.”