WASHINGTON - Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee recently ended his honeymoon with the media and was handed some tough questions about statements he made in 1992 about AIDS and homosexuality.
He had called for steps to "isolate the carriers of this plague" during his failed run for a U.S. Senate seat from Arkansas 15 years ago, according to CNN.
Huckabee would not retract the statement.
"I had simply made the point – and I still believe this today – that in the late '80s and early '90s, when we didn't know as much as we do now about AIDS, we were acting more out of political correctness than we were about the normal public health protocols that we would have acted," Huckabee told Fox News on Sunday.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in 1985 that AIDS was not transmitted by casual contact. But Huckabee contends that at the time, "there were other concerns being voiced by public health officials."
He rejected the idea that he called for people infected with HIV to be quarantined, but did not explain what he meant by the word "isolated."
"Now, would I say things a little differently in 2007? Probably so," Huckabee said to Fox News. "But I'm not going to recant or retract from the statement that I did make because, again, the point was not saying we ought to lock people up who have HIV/AIDS."
In November, Huckabee had commended Rick and Kay Warren as well as other church leaders for engaging in the HIV/AIDS crisis in a video message addressed to participants of the Global Summit on AIDS and the Church at Saddleback Church.
In his video remarks, Huckabee called on the government to extend Medicaid coverage beyond AIDS patients to include those infected by HIV. He also called for more funding for HIV/AIDS drug research.
His past comments on AIDS were among 229 answers he offered in a questionnaire during his first run for political office. On the issue of homosexuality, Huckabee described it as "an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle."
On Monday, Huckabee said he still stands by those remarks.
"Let's understand what sin means," he said. "Sin means missing the mark. Missing the mark could mean missing the mark in any area. We've all missed the mark."
He described the "proper relationship" as one between a married man and woman having children.
"If we didn't have that as the ideal, we wouldn't have a civilization that was able to perpetuate," he said. "So, rather than read into something incredibly out of line, just read into the fact that I believe that the ideal relationship is one man, one woman, pro-life."
Huckabee has rapidly risen in polls lately, attracting national attention but also drawing attacks from rivals. Recent polls show Huckabee leading in Iowa, displacing former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney from the top position, and also leading in some South Carolina polls where former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the frontrunner.
In an earlier interview with Fox's American Morning, Huckabee said he doesn't mind being attacked because it must mean he is doing well.
"The fact that I am being attacked is a good sign. It's a sign of life," said Huckabee in October when he received his first attack from Romney. "This is hunting season. I'm a hunter. You don't ever point your gun at a dead carcass. A lot of folks are pointing at me," he said with a grin.