Mike Pence is trying to rewrite history again about his record on HIV.
ABC’s 20/20 recently carried out an investigation of “conversion therapy” in the US, and Pence’s murky past on the issue.
The investigation looked at the fringe extremist religious groups who support attempts to ‘cure’ gay people.
Many of them told ABC that they see an ally in Pence, who famously once suggested on a campaign website that HIV prevention funding be drained in order to fund state-sponsored ‘gay cure’ therapy.
In a statement to the outlet, Pence’s spokesperson failed to disavow the practice, but claimed that “any assertion that Vice President-elect Pence supported or advocated for conversion therapy is patently false and is a mischaracterization of language”.
They added: “The Vice President-elect has a long record of supporting efforts to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, was also a strong supporter of AIDS Africa relief legislation (known as PEPFAR) and, as Governor of Indiana, provided strong and compassionate leadership to confront an HIV epidemic in Southern Indiana in 2015.”
Pence’s claims about his record have been dismissed by the Human Rights Campaign as a flagrant attempt to rewrite history.
As they point out, as Governor of Indiana, Pence stood in the way of expanding HIV services and preventative measures like needle exchanges – until he was forced to declare a public health emergency in 2015 due to a sharp rise in transmissions.
He agreed to introduce basic HIV prevention measures only after enormous pressure from experts, including an intervention from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pence also declined to offer any state funding for local officials seeking to tackle HIV, and threatened to veto bills that would have authorised a stronger response to the crisis.
Dave Duberstein, HRC’s Director of Political Research said: “Mike Pence proposed diverting HIV prevention funding to programs supporting conversion therapy and hindered an effective response to his own state’s HIV crisis.
“Those are facts. Not alternative ones. Actual ones.
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“The White House can try to revise history, but the reporting on this is clear.”
It’s not the first time Pence has attempted to retrospectively rewrite history.
In December, he issued an abrupt statement denying he ever advocated ‘gay cure’ therapy – after failing to take issue with any reports about his stance on the issue in the prior six months.
On a 2000 Congressional campaign website, Pence wrote: “Congress should support the reauthorization of the [HIV funding] Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organisations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviours that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour.”
After he was selected as Trump’s running mate, Pence repeatedly declined requests to disavow gay ‘cure’ therapy or clarify his point of view.
Five months later, however, Pence’s spokesperson claimed it was “patently false” that Mr. Pence “supported or advocated” the practice.
Although Pence’s website directly calls for therapy to “change their sexual behaviour”, the spokesperson claimed he had simply been calling for federal funds to “be directed to groups that promoted safe sexual practices”.
The Act in question already provided funding to groups that promoted safe sexual practices, so it is unclear how exactly Pence could have possibly been suggesting anything of the sort.
It is also unclear why Pence has not sought to “correct” the record at any point since his nomination as Trump’s VP, given his sudden insistence that his views on the issue have been “mischaracterised”.