AIDS activists are publicly excoriating Bernie Sanders after the Democratic presidential candidate outright lied about his oft-postponed meeting with HIV/AIDS leaders yesterday.
Sanders had agreed to the meeting a while ago, then abruptly canceled; incurring the wrath of AIDS activists after refusing to reschedule. The criticism apparently grew to be too much and Sanders was forced to relent and hold the meeting.
The latest eruption occurred after Sanders left the meeting and issued a press release claiming the activists joined him in supporting a controversial California drug initiative that the activists strongly oppose, and they’d indicated as much to Sanders.
Just as oddly, Sanders hadn’t even brought up the initiative at the meeting with the activists — it was they who raised the issue with him. Yet Sanders is now claiming that the meeting was set to discuss the initiative, and that the activists agreed with him, when they most certainly do not.
Veteran advocate Peter Staley weighed in on Facebook this afternoon:
Here’s the text of what Peter wrote:
Feeling used and abused by the Sanders campaign right now. They just issued a press release making it sound like our meeting was about his endorsement of AHF’s drug pricing ballot initiative in CA. Senator Sanders never brought the issue up during our meeting. WE brought it up near the end, only to tell him that we had been flooded with messages from all the leading AIDS organizations in CA with deep concerns about AHF’s initiative — they are worried it could actually negatively impact access to AIDS drugs. Those groups have tried to reach the campaign with these concerns but had hit a brick wall. We asked Sanders to designate someone in his campaign to talk with these groups, and he agreed to this. WE DID NOT ENDORSE AHF’S INITIATIVE. His campaign should not have issued a press release implying this was a major topic of discussion at the meeting, and that there was general agreement on the Senator’s position on this. Anything but.
It’s a complicated issue that John Weir gets into in detail here. But what isn’t complicated is that a group of America’s top HIV activists sat down with Bernie Sanders and told him unequivocally that they opposed this initiative. Sanders turned around and lied about them, and their alleged support for this initiative, ostensibly to endear himself to key organizations in California that can help him in the upcoming primary race in that state.
The thing is, the activists left the meeting pleased with Sanders, thinking things had gone well. Here’s Peter Staley:
We were all set to spin this meeting quite positively, but this press release is very misleading. Please see my post from last night — there were no attacks against the Senator in my first post on the meeting. We’ll still be reporting some of the positive stuff that came out of it. But his press team really scr*wed us.
It’s bad enough that Sanders blew off the AIDS community last month, and that up until a month or so ago Sanders didn’t even mention AIDS on the rather-short-on-substance LGBT page on his campaign site (the page was only beef upped after I publicly complained about its paucity). But for Sanders to take a community that’s already ticked at him, that he’s already dissed, and then use his meeting with them to curry favor with key political allies in a primary state is the height of the very Machiavellian politics that Sanders claims to eschew.
Silence = Death. And lies don’t help much either.