Jerry Thacker, an archconservative Christian and homophobe, will not be heading for a seat on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). The nomination was all but officially announced when press reports, first in the gay press and then the daily press, highlighted Thacker's characterization of AIDS as a 'gay plague.'
But as soon as that headline hit the front page of the Washington Post Jan. 23, Thacker was toast. He withdrew his name from consideration that morning.
Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer couldn't run fast enough from the language. He disagreed with Thacker's assertion that 'homosexuality is a death-style.' 'Those words are as wrong as they are inappropriate. And they are not shared by the President,' said Fleischer.
He said an appointment had not been made and tried to buck the decision-making on appointees over to the Department of Health and Human Services, calling them 'appointments made at the Cabinet level.'
Secretary Tommy Thompson denied ever having heard of Thacker before and passed responsibility down the bureaucratic chain of command.
Most people who follow PACHA believe the Council's executive director Patricia Ware is going to be blamed. She has strong ties to right-wing groups like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family. Some members of the Council have also accused her of being antigay. She apparently has the strong support of the number two person at HHS, Claude Allen, another Black social conservative.
Even as the controversy was bubbling up onto the front pages of the news, Thacker and his supporters appear to have been at work 'sanitizing' the various web pages containing the incriminating language.
One member of PACHA, speaking on background, is fearful that the administration will try to make up for the Thacker gaffe by scheduling a meeting with the President when the committee meets at the end of January. But the member says the opportunity would be wasted because 'we don't have anything to say, and it's all because of Pat Ware' and her bungling of the administrative side of running the committee.
The latest speculation is that the meeting will happen on Friday, Jan. 31.
Thacker's wife became infected with HIV through a blood transfusion in the early 1980s. The virus was transmitted to him through sex and to their infant daughter through breast-feeding.
Earlier this month, other new members of PACHA were announced. David Greer is the new member of PACHA best known to the gay community. He worked as communications director for Log Cabin Republicans and later moved to Philadelphia to work in the private sector.
During the fight for the Republican nomination, in April 2000, Greer was one of the 'Austin 12' who met with then candidate George W. Bush to discuss gay issues. He is HIV positive and serves on the Board of Governors of the Human Rights Campaign.
Don Sneed, 49, is executive director of Renaissance III, an AIDS organization serving Black men in Dallas. Last November, speaking before a Southern States Summit on HIV/AIDS and STDs organized by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Vietnam veteran described himself as 'an HIV positive, African American, gay male, ex drug addict, and I've been to prison.'