On his first day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, John Ashcroft lied to his former colleagues about the record of Dr. David Satcher, whom Ashcroft opposed for Surgeon General. On CNN's Crossfire, Bill Press caught Ashcroft in his lie.
Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on John Ashcroft
January 16, 2001
Transcript by CNN
ASHCROFT: [Dr. Satcher] lobbied Congress to continue an anonymous study testing newborn infants' blood for the AIDS virus, without informing the mother if the test was positive. Now, I have real problems with a situation where someone wants to be the surgeon general of the United States, wants to learn about whether or not there's AIDS present in a medical situation, and not tell the people involved about the AIDS virus.
This is a matter of deep concern to me. The idea of sending fatally infected babies home with their unwitting mothers, even after a treatment had been identified for AIDS, to me was an idea that was unacceptable for an individual who wanted to be the leader in terms of the medical community and a role model in the United States. It was on those grounds that I made the decision.
CNN's Crossfire, January 16, 20001
Bill Press Exchange with Senator Arlen Specter
PRESS: Senator Specter, Senator Ashcroft was also asked today, in addition to Bill Lann Lee, about his opposition to David Satcher as attorney general. I was surprised, he made a very serious charge. He said he voted against him because General Satcher was guilty ... of sending AIDS infected babies home without telling their mothers... Now, I checked today after the hearing. That program was not begun by David Satcher. It was actually done under Ronald Reagan in 1988 to test the spread of AIDS in this country, and it was ended by Doctor Satcher in 1995, two years before he was nominated as surgeon general. Again, wasn't that a bogus, and unfair charge on Ashcroft's part?
SPECTER: Well, Bill, nobody challenged him at the hearing. John Ashcroft...
PRESS: I am now.
SPECTER: Well, where is John Ashcroft? Let's see if he can respond to it. The issue was raised about Doctor Satcher's nomination, and Senator Ashcroft gave very specific reasons, saying that on this testing, if they found the child was infected with AIDS, they did not tell the parents. And he had very specific reasons that what -- at least according to his representation -- and I don't know if he was right, wrong, or indifferent. But I do know Doctor Satcher's nomination was brought up by a questioner, and Ashcroft answered, and that was the end of it.
PRESS: But here's what I find troubling, is -- and by the way, at the time, Bill Frist, the only... physician in the Senate, and a Republican, said that what Doctor Satcher did was ethically correct, that the charges were bogus, and it was pure politics, had nothing to do with the real issue. And so, you get with David Satcher, and with Ronnie White, and with Bill Lann Lee -- you always get these far-reaching reasons that Ashcroft comes up with for opposing some minority nominee. Doesn't that -- isn't that troubling?