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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Ari Owes an Apology
Jonathan Pait
January 29, 2003

Update: Jerry Thacker is scheduled to appear Monday, February 3 on Buchannan and Press at 2PM (MSNBC).

Update: Jerry Thacker is tentatively scheduled to appear on The Bill O'Reilly Show, Tuesday, February 4 at 8PM.

In “The Trent-o-tantrums continue” I used the example of Jerry Thacker, a man with AIDS that has a ministry of going to churches across the country urging them to become active is reaching out to people with the disease and encouraging teenagers to pledge to remain virgins until marriage. His use of the term “gay plague” to point out initial attitudes toward AIDS by the church (an attitude he seeks to change) in the early years of the discovery of HIV was taken to be his own view.

In front of me is a pile of articles gleaned from a search of Lexis Nexis and Google. Example after example exists of this unprofessional reporting. Special thanks to Christianity Today for compiling some of these examples in easy to read format.

  • Jerry Thacker, a Christian conservative who has called AIDS the gay plague . . . (The New York Times)
  • Blasted by controversy over his characterizations of AIDS as a "gay plague," Christian activist Jerry Thacker . . . (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Jerry Thacker, a Christian activist who has described AIDS as the "gay plague" . . . (The Washington Post)
  • A Christian activist. . . . [characterized] the disease as the "gay plague." (Associated Press)
  • A controversial marketing consultant who once called AIDS a "gay plague" (Reuters)
  • The Christian conservative . . . [who made] earlier references to AIDS as "the gay plague." (Los Angeles Times)
  • Suddenly it becomes “truth” that Jerry Thacker believes that AIDS is the gay plague just because the assertion appeared in The New York Times. The fact that it is politically incorrect to defend anyone who is even accused of speaking ill of the homosexual special interest group keeps people from speaking out against this unprofessional and unethical reporting.

    The only other thing that these biased reporters were able to dig up on Jerry was his statement that “homosexuality is not a lifestyle, it is a death-style.” Again, these are strong words but it is not intended as a singular strike against homosexuals. Jerry’s ministry has very little to do with homosexual behavior and a whole lot to do with illicit sexual activity between teenagers. A thrust of his message is that such behavior, besides being immoral, is dangerous. Anyone who is participating in risky sexual behavior is playing Russian Roulette with only one chamber empty.

    I understand that is a very strong statement and it was intended to be. However, it is not a statement with the aim to show bigotry against any particular people. It serves as a compassionate warning for anyone who is involved in immoral and risky behavior. Once again, the entire concept was taken completely out of its proper context to be made into some sort of death-wish upon homosexuals.

    They won’t stop at merely going after Jerry. They will continue their attempts to discredit any person on the commission that holds any sort of abstinence position. An AP story contains the following quotation by Caya Lewis, a current panelist, "There are many members of the council who share views similar to him, ... who are not particularly sensitive to gay issues, and I think would rather focus on 'innocent victims,' as they like to say, like women and children."

    They are allowed to talk out of both sides of their mouths. David Greer, a homosexual appointee to the commission is quoted in the AP as saying, “I want to hear as many points of view as possible.” Yet, he turns around and says of Jerry, “He’s for abstinence until marriage. If you’re gay, we can’t get married. That is a dangerous message to be sending out to gay people because then they don’t even hear a prevention message.” Hey, David, what about straight people? Should they be ignored? Can homosexuals not be monogamous?

    Finally, Jerry Thacker deserves an apology from Ari Fleischer and the Bush administration. It isn’t that they have somehow gone on an attack of Jerry, but rather they did not do their research before disavowing him. Ari undoubtedly received his information on the issue before the January 23 press briefing directly from the Washington Post.

    Q. A member of the administration’s AIDS Advisory Council has called AIDS “a gay plague.” Does the President condone that kind of language?
    The question is invalid because Jerry did not and does not hold the position that AIDS is a gay plague. The leading question following the statement is not a call for Bush to condemn the “language” but to condemn Jerry.
    Q. Back to Jerry Thacker, we’ve been talking about discrimination and issues of discrimination, race for the last couple of weeks. But Jerry – granted, he’s a man who has the disease himself, but not through – well, apparently through the fact that his wife was infected through a blood transfusion. Is this gay bashing? Is this – these words “gay plague” and “homosexuality is a death-style,” is that gay bashing? And is there room in this country, not just in this administration or the commission, but is there room for –
    Ari replies, “Those words are as wrong as they are inappropriate. And they are not shared by the President.” The reporter came back, “But can the administration say, look, this man is not allowed to be on this commission because he is, indeed, gay bashing?”

    So, why apologize? Because by saying, “the views that he holds are far, far removed from what the President believes” the administration is once again allowing the press corp to define a man’s character and positions. The administration hung a man out to dry for political expediency. I have seen the Bush administration do this more than once. “Hey, these guys are small fry and can be sacrificed.” Such attitudes may go unnoticed but it shows a chink in the character of Bush’s administration.

    I guess we have learned two things about Bush through this exchange. 1. Bush has no problem with illicit sexual activity. 2. Bush believes that AIDS is a gay plague. It has to be so. If Bush's views are 180 degrees different from Jerry’s then that has to be the conclusion.

    Ari also says, “The President’s view is people with AIDS need to be treated with care, compassion. . .” Oh, I guess Jerry wakes up in the morning, looks in the mirror and curses himself. I guess Jerry treats his wife and daughter without care and compassion. No, Jerry is the one showing compassion by pointing to one sure way to avoid the disease. The uncompassionate will say, “Hey, go ahead and engage in risky behavior and then we’ll pay your medical bills when you are ravaged by the disease.”

    Last night Bush proposed 15 billion dollars to go to Africa to help stamp out AIDS. We learn from Uganda (an excellent article by Rod Dreher appears in the February 10 issue of National Review) just recently that the most effective way they have been able to stem the tide is through behavioral change – specifically abstinence and monogamy. Both concepts work equally well for ALL people. Yet, folks are falling all over themselves to discount or ignore the report. Sometimes compassion is standing up and saying what people don’t want to hear.

    I agree with Christianity Today, Jerry is twice a victim. He is a victim of AIDS and homosexual activists. Is he also a victim of conservatives who are unwilling to defend him?

    How does he respond to all of this? Jerry told me, “I am a team player. I don’t wish to cause the administration problems. Abstinence needs to be one of the issues on the table. I don’t want to be a lightening rod to distract from the good it can do.”

    Jerry was a willing sacrifice. I have a lot harder time lying on the altar.

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