Wash. Post uncritically reported Huckabee's false claim that "in 1992 there was much confusion about how AIDS was spread"

››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

Writing about reports that Mike Huckabee had suggested quarantining people with AIDS in 1992, Washington Post staff writer Perry Bacon Jr. uncritically reported: "As Huckabee's response to a questionnaire on AIDS began to circulate yesterday, his campaign issued a statement from him noting that in 1992 there was much confusion about how AIDS was spread." But an Associated Press article reported that "[w]hen Huckabee wrote his answers in 1992, it was common knowledge that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact."

An article in the December 9 edition of The Washington Post by staff writer Perry Bacon Jr. noted that "[t]he Associated Press reported yesterday that, as a Senate candidate in 1992, [former Arkansas Gov. Mike] Huckabee [R] suggested quarantining people with AIDS, opposed additional federal funding for seeking a cure and said homosexuality was 'an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk.' " The Post article uncritically noted: "As Huckabee's response to a questionnaire on AIDS began to circulate yesterday, his campaign issued a statement from him noting that in 1992 there was much confusion about how AIDS was spread." However, Bacon did not report, as the December 8 AP article he cited did, that "[w]hen Huckabee wrote his answers in 1992, it was common knowledge that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact."

As the blog Think Progress reported, on the December 9 edition of Fox News Sunday, Huckabee told host Chris Wallace: "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." He later added: "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."

Huckabee also stated on Fox News Sunday that "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," to which Wallace responded: "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 then asserted "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."

However, a December 11, 1991, USA Today article reported:

In 1985, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta declared that ''the kind of non-sexual person -to-person contact that generally occurs among workers in the workplace'' does not pose a risk of AIDS transmission.

The human immunodeficiency virus, which causes acquired immune-deficiency syndrome, is extremely fragile and dies easily once outside the body. It is not transmitted through telephones, toilets, machinery, clothing or work surfaces.

Nor is it transmitted by casual contact -- including touching, living in the same house, breathing the same air, being coughed on or eating food prepared by an infected person. Although a few virus particles have been found in saliva or tears, no cases of AIDS have been reported resulting from contact with those fluids. The CDC says the risk of getting HIV from sweat, tears or saliva is almost non-existent.

[...]

AIDS is spread through unprotected sexual contact (anal, oral or vaginal) with an infected person, hypodermic needles used by an infected person and blood or blood products contaminated with HIV. It also can be passed on by an infected woman to her child during pregnancy.

In contrast to the December 9 Washington Post article, a December 9 New York Times article by Michael Luo reported, "[B]y the time Mr. Huckabee answered the A.P. survey, it was well established that the virus could not be spread through casual contact." From the Times:

Fears of AIDS spreading widely in the United States were common in the mid-1980s, as doctors struggled to learn about how the virus that causes the disease was transmitted. But by the time Mr. Huckabee answered the A.P. survey, it was well established that the virus could not be spread through casual contact.

Mr. Huckabee said in a statement yesterday that there was still confusion at the time about transmission of the disease and that his "concern was safety first, political correctness last." Mr. Huckabee has been popular among Christian conservatives, who appreciate his stands on social issues and his unabashed professions of faith on the trail.

From Bacon's December 9 article in The Washington Post:

The Associated Press reported yesterday that, as a Senate candidate in 1992, Huckabee suggested quarantining people with AIDS, opposed additional federal funding for seeking a cure and said homosexuality was "an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."

[...]

As Huckabee's response to a questionnaire on AIDS began to circulate yesterday, his campaign issued a statement from him noting that in 1992 there was much confusion about how AIDS was spread. Huckabee pledged to make fighting AIDS a centerpiece of his presidency.

"We now know that the virus that causes AIDS is spread differently, with a lower level of contact than with TB," Huckabee's statement said. "But looking back almost 20 years, my concern was the uncertain risk to the general population -- if we got it wrong, many people would die needlessly. My concern was safety first, political correctness last."

Posted In
Elections, Health Care, HIV/AIDS
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Stories/Interests
2008 Elections
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