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Huck defends AIDS stance

From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy and Domenico Montanaro
ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Huckabee
defended his past stance and written comments calling for a quarantine of those with AIDS, likened homosexuality to "lying" and "stealing" and
again lauded the power of prayer in campaigns while speaking to
reporters here.

Here's what he said…
On AIDS: "Fifteen years ago, the AIDS crisis was just that; it was a
crisis, and we didn't know exactly all the details of how extensive it
was going to be. There were a lot of questions back at that time as to
just how the disease could be carried. You may remember the 1991 case
of the person who had contracted AIDS from her dentist.

"There was just a real panic in this country, and what I mentioned was
that the only time in human history that we had not quarantined people
who are a carrier of a disease for which we didn't know where it was
going was this time, and if I were making those same comments today I
might make them a little differently. But obviously I have to stand by
what I said and the fact is that it was unusual for us to do something
unlike medical protocols. Medical protocols typically says that if have
a disease for which there is no cure, and you are uncertain about the
transmission of it that the first thing you do is you quarantine or
isolate carriers, and that's historically how we've done that in the
public health community."

But as the AP
notes: "When Huckabee wrote his answers in 1992, it was common
knowledge that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact. In late
1991, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were
195,718 AIDS patients in the country and that 126,159 people had died
from the syndrome.

"The nation had an increased awareness of AIDS at the time because pro
basketball star Magic Johnson had recently disclosed he carried the
virus responsible for it. Johnson retired but returned to the NBA
briefly during the 1994-95 season."

But Huckabee stuck by his 1992 statement, even after a reporter
informed him that in 1988, the Surgeon General wrote, "you wont just
catch AIDS like a cold
or flu because the virus is a different type."

On homosexuality: "I think people have a right to live anyway they want to, but if asked specifically do I believe that it is a normal behavior, I've said all along that I don't, that I think that it is behavior that is outside the boundaries of the man-woman relationship that is traditional marriage."

Asked if he thinks homosexuality is sinful, he said, "Well I believe it would be -- just like lying is sinful and stealing is sinful. There are a lot of things that are sinful. It doesn't mean that a person is a horrible person. It means that they engage in behavior that is outside the norms of those boundaries of our traditional view of what's right and what's wrong. So, I think that anybody who has, maybe a traditional worldview of sexuality would classify that as an unusual behavior that is not traditional and that would be outside those bounds."

Asked about saying that there were public health concerns with homosexuality, and he said, "There are a lot of obvious changes in what we understand about the transmission today that we didn't understand in 1992, and I think that's part of the whole issue here. For someone to dig out that 229 question questionnaire, that's going to happen. There'll probably be some more stuff that'll be dug up before now, and that's fine. The one thing that I feel like is important to note is you stick by what you said, and I'm not going to go around changing my opinion on everything."

On whether he believes God has chosen him, Huckabee said, "Well I've been very, very careful never to say I think God's chosen me, because I think that's a very presumptuous thing for anybody to try to say. So I don't know that, and I did say on that very day that last time I checked God did not register to vote in one of the states in which there's a primary.

"So this isn't about saying God is going to elect me to anything; people will elect me. And as far as the role of prayer, I would like to believe people are praying, not just for me but for our country and praying that we will have a great country and that we'll have a revived spirit in this nation, getting back to that sense of optimism and hope that I've been talking about on the campaign trail. I think that's clearly what's resonating with a whole lot of people.

About using the words "Christian Leader" in his Iowa ad: "It's a historical fact or a description of my biography to use that term," Huckabee said. "What I've been interested in is that same ad has another banner equal to that that says one of America's five best governors according to Time Magazine. Nobody's asked me about that one, and it's just as descriptive as is the idea of Christian leaders.

"So there was nothing written into that. A lot of people have tried to read something in, and it's more about those who are reading it in. It was not intended to try to say anything about anybody else. It was simply a description of my own biography, nothing more nothing less than that.

"I think it's more about moral leadership, leadership that relates to consistency in one's own life and belief. I don't think a person has to have a particular religious faith to be elected. In fact, I think it's important that we don't have a religious test. Our Constitution says that we shouldn't have one, and I would agree with that. I don't think that anybody should be excluded.

"Go back and look at the tape when Bill Maher interviewed me on his show on HBO a few months ago. I think I surprised him and probably a lot of people when he asked me about Pete Stark's comment, Pete Stark the California congressman, and asked because Pete Stark that week had said he was an atheist. And he asked me, did I think that should disqualify him for Congress. I said absolutely not and, in fact, if anything, I have more respect for a man, who says I'm an atheist and is honest about it than a man who says he's a Christian, but doesn't live like it. So, that's always been my position. I've said that on national television. I say it here tonight and that would remain my position."

On federal funding for AIDS research and the disconnect between the surgeon general's recommendation and his comments: "Notice what I said in '92," Huckabee said. "I didn't say that I wasn't for funding, but the question was, 'Was I for additional funding,' and I mentioned that there were a lot of diseases that we needed to fund, and that included diabetes and heart disease, and I would add to that Alzheimer's and a host of diseases that effect a lot of American families.

"To single out one disease as the only one that we're going to increase funding for to the exclusion of the others, I think was wrong then. I think it would be wrong now. Do I support additional funding for HIV/AIDS? Yes. I actually did it out of the Governor's Emergency Fund when I was a governor. So my record is one of taking personal initiative to make sure that we did do it, but on the other hand if we only touch that disease, and we leave a lot of people without any consideration who have cancer, who have heart disease, who have diabetes, who have Alzheimer's in their family, then I'm not sure how we can justify that. So that was the point I made then. It's consistent with the point that I continue to make now."

But what Huckabee wrote then was this: "In light of the extraordinary funds already being given for AIDS research, it does not seem that additional federal spending can be justified. 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."

Huckabee added today, "There was still a great deal of, I think, uncertainty about just how widespread AIDS was, how it could be transmitted. So, we know more now than we knew in 1992. All of us do, hopefully, about not just AIDS, but about a lot of things.

"Let me say this, it's flattering that people now are digging back everything I ever wrote and ever said, and there must be something about my campaign that's catching on, but you know if the worst thing somebody can say about me is that 15 years ago, you know, I said that we need to be very careful about this transmission of a disease, then I'm probably going to be okay."