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AIDS Activist Speaks Out About Feud With Bernie Sanders Campaign

1thumbA conflict between a group of HIV/AIDS activists and Bernie Sanders‘ presidential campaign came to a head over the weekend. The group accused Sanders of misleading the public and exploiting a meeting that the group had with independent Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. A Sanders adviser responded  by accusing the activists of being on the take from pharmaceutical companies. One of those activists spoke out on Sunday to deny the since-deleted attack, and urge further discussion.

As we reported a few weeks ago, activist Michael Rajner appeared on Joy Reid’s show to lobby for a meeting with Sanders’ campaign after they paid his group less mind than even Donald Trump’s campaign, and when the pressure worked, Rajner and his group were pleased. After what the group still describes as a productive meeting, however, they became outraged at the way Sanders’ campaign characterized the event in a press release, and made their objections known in a scathing open letter. Signed by 19 members of the coalition, the letter said that Sanders pimped their meeting in a press release that made it sound like the group endorses a piece of legislation that Sanders supports

Sanders campaign senior policy adviser Warren Gunnels responded to the activists’ letter by accusing them, in an email, of being stooges for pharmaceutical companies. Shortly after Mediaite reached out to the Sanders campaign to get their side of the story, Warren Gunnels posted this now-deleted tweet attacking longtime activist Peter Staley:

On Sunday morning’s AM Joy, Peter Staley spoke out about the feud with host Joy Reid, who first surfaced the group’s concerns about the Sanders campaign several weeks ago. Staley told Reid that he doesn’t receive any funding of any kind, and that while he’s not shy about his support for Hillary Clinton, others on his group support Sanders. He also said that he takes Gunnels’ deletion of the attack tweet as “an apology of a kind,” and still hopes to reconnect with the Sanders campaign:

Reid: Have you heard from the Sanders campaign since you made this letter public on your Facebook page?

Staley: No. We haven’t. You know, fortunately he deleted his tweet, and I guess that’s an apology of a kind. But we — frankly, we would love to get back to the fact that we actually had a fairly productive meeting with the candidate himself, and it went well, and he said some great stuff. And we want to continue that dialogue and we want him, as he leads a very important progressive movement in the future, to keep HIV/AIDS in the foreground.

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