For Mike Pence, It Was Just Too Much When the RNC Let an HIV-positive Woman Speak at the ’96 Convention

INDIANA–(ENEWSPF)–September 1, 2016

By Kerry Eleveld

Presumptive US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) and Indiana Governor Mike Pence (L) take the stage during a campaign rally at Grant Park Event Center in Westfield, Indiana, on July 12, 2016.  / AFP / Tasos KATOPODIS        (Photo credit should read TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Isn’t he the best.

Back in the mid-’90s when the AIDS epidemic had already ravaged a generation of gay men, Mike Pence—a self-styled Christian “family values” guy—wasn’t feeling all that charitable toward gay Americans or really anyone with HIV/AIDS. For him, it was the perfect chance to ride a homophobic wave to political stardom. Ari Rabin-Havt writes:

Writing in the Indiana Policy Review, a magazine published by a statewide think tank of the same name that he once ran, Pence lamented that the 1996 Republican National Convention had become “an endless line of pro-choice women, AIDS activists, and proponents of Affirmative Action.” […]

Pence’s attack on AIDS activists was especially odd. Mary Fisher, a Republican who worked in the Ford administration, was the HIV positive woman who spoke at the convention that year. She had previously addressed the 1992 convention in a speech that was ultimately published in the anthology “Words of a Century: The Top 100 American Speeches, 1900-1999.” Norman Mailer wrote that during Fisher’s 1992 speech, “the floor was in tears, and conceivably the nation as well.”

In 1996, Fisher appeared on stage with Hydeia Broadbent, then six years old, who was born HIV positive and abandoned as an infant. Fifteen years later, Broadbent was named one of the “Top 100 African-American History Makers in the Making” by the Grio.

Just terrible, isn’t it? HIV-positive people—not to mention women and people of color—being allowed to speak! Pence was especially sickened by their presence given what he called the “systematic exclusion from prime time of social conservatives”—all of which made for a “real ratings buster” at the convention.

The people on stage may not have been gay, but Pence employed “AIDS activists” as a dog whistle since the disease was still primarily associated with gay men back then. Mike Pence’s homophobic musings aren’t a new revelation, just more evidence of where his heart lies.