Pence questioned why AIDS activists attended 1996 convention
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GOP vice presidential nominee Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceSunday shows preview: 2020 candidates look to South Carolina The Democratic nominee won't be democratically chosen The Hill's Campaign Report: What to watch for in Nevada MORE questioned why AIDS activists spoke at the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego in an article penned that year.

While writing for Indiana Policy Review, a conservative think-tank based in the state where Pence would later serve as a congressman and governor, Pence blasted the convention for failing to represent the party’s base.

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 “The sad truth is that the Republican Party for all its success in generating media praise for the convention failed to present the personalities or principles of interest to its base constituency, the modern Reagan coalition,” Pence wrote.

“An endless line of pro-choice women, AIDS activists and proponents of affirmative action may have struck a chord with the Washington press corps. They bombed, however, in Peoria.”

Pence, 57, was a talk radio host at the time of the article. 

People for the American Way’s “Right Wing Watch” first uncovered Pence’s article and shared it with The Hill.

A Pence spokesman did not return a request for comment.

In the 1996 piece, Pence went on to add that the convention also included a “systematic exclusion from prime time of social conservatives” and argued that “whether the elites in the media and the GOP like it or not, traditional pro-family conservatives make up the bedrock of modern Republican electoral success.”

AIDS activist Mary Fisher, who contracted the disease from her former husband, spoke at the 1996 convention to call on the party to join the fight against the disease, which had been stereotyped as a disease more prominent in the gay community. 

PFAW Senior Fellow Ari Rabin-Havt accused Pence of “advocating for a smaller-tent Republican Party, one that would not court African Americans, women or the LGBT community.”

“It is doubtful that Pence’s objection was to these specific ‘AIDS activists,’” he wrote in a blog on the group’s website.

“His objection was likely that at the time, HIV/AIDS was still viewed as a gay issue. Pence clearly did not consider LGBT individuals part of the 'pro-family' party he envisioned the GOP to be.”

Pence drew controversy last year with his support of a bill known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he signed as governor. But amid protests that the bill amounted to legalizing discrimination against the LGBT community, Pence backed a compromise meant to protect against that discrimination.