Uncovered: O’Donnell objected to calling AIDS sufferers ‘victims’

By Muriel Kane
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 13:55 EDT
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Delaware Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell has already been widely mocked for a 1998 interview in which she claimed that masturbation is no different from adultery because “the Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery.”

Now Talking Points Memo has uncovered a 1997 interview on C-SPAN in which O’Donnell complained about the “gross disproportionate allocation of funds” going to AIDS research and treatment.

“A lot of the money that we’re spending goes to things that we know will not prevent AIDS,” O’Donnell complained, “but, indeed, will continue to spread the disease — when a lot of our money goes to distribute condoms in high schools, when a lot of our money goes to distribute material that is literally pornographic.”

After a caller suggested that contracting AIDS is “like a bank robber getting shot in the head while in the act of committing the robbery,” O’Donnell agreed that “he makes an excellent point.”

“The caller before him referred to people who get AIDS as victims,” O’Donnell continued. “It’s that kind of spinning with words and manipulating with words that empowers the bias when it comes to AIDS.” She went on to insist that cancer is “just an act of God” but that “your behavior is directly connected to whether you get AIDS.”

Claiming that a “powerful political agenda” was preventing the issue from being looked at objectively, O’Donnell argued that AIDS was the consequence of “a high risk behavior.” She suggested that people who were following “the type of lifestyle which leads to the disease” should be advised to modify their behavior in the same way that those who are at risk of heart disease are told to “cut out the fatty foods, they start exercising, they quit smoking.”

In O’Donnell’s mind, however, the direct equivalent of too many double cheeseburgers with fries appeared to be not merely high-risk sexual behavior but sex of any kind. She told the interviewer that individuals could almost entirely eliminate their chances of getting AIDS by pursuing abstinence outside of marriage and monogamy within it.

“If we would just claim personal responsibility in this country for our behavior and our lifestyle,” O’Donnell concluded, “we can wipe out AIDS within a generation.”

O’Donnell’s claim that people with AIDS should not be considered victims because they have the option of changing their lifestyle, however, is not only insensitive but inaccurate. For one thing, it ignores the special vulnerability of women, which is particularly obvious in third-world countries where many women are at risk of contracting AIDS from their husbands and passing it on to their children.

One study of the AIDS crisis in Senegal points out that “women are the victims of gender inequality including lowered access to education and paid work, as well as to social and health facilities. African men’s relative access to social and economic resources keeps them in a dominant social position and gives them the opportunity to impose their views and determine women’s behaviour, particularly sexual.”

O’Donnell, however, appears to live in a world of moral absolutes and to be incapable of recognizing that people can find themselves in impossible circumstances through no fault of their own. During a 1998 appearance on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, for example, she insisted that “telling the truth is always the right thing to do” and maintained her position even when asked by comedian Eddie Izzard, “What if someone comes to you in the middle of the Second World War and says, ‘Do you have any Jewish people in your house?’”

“I believe if I were in that situation, God would provide a way to do the right thing righteously,” O’Donnell replied. “You never have to practice deception. God always provides a way out.”

This video is from C-SPAN c. 1997 and was posted to YouTube by Talking Points Memo on September 15, 2010.

Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
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