Helms Sorry On AIDS, Not Race

Silk floral-printed tunics and bold abstract prints adorned with huge flowers were the focal point in Angela Missoni's Spring/Summer 2008 ready-to-wear show. At left, a model walks the runway during the Missoni Spring/Summer 2008 ready-to-wear collection on Sept. 25, 2007, in Milan. AFP/Getty Images

Former Sen. Jesse Helms acknowledges he was wrong about the AIDS epidemic, but believes integration was forced before its time by "outside agitators who had their own agendas," according to advance proofs of his memoir.

"Here's Where I Stand," to be published in September by Random House, contains Helms' first extended comments on national affairs since he retired from the Senate in 2003 after five terms.

Helms, 83, was one of the state's leading voices of segregation as a TV commentator in Raleigh in the 1960s and opposed nearly every civil rights bill while in the Senate. He has never retracted his views on race or said segregation was wrong.

In the book, Helms suggests that he believed voluntary racial integration would come about without pressure from the federal government or from civil rights protests that he said sharpened racial antagonisms.

"We will never know how integration might have been achieved in neighborhoods across our land, because the opportunity was snatched away by outside agitators who had their own agendas to advance," he wrote. "We certainly do know the price paid by the stirring of hatred, the encouragement of violence, the suspicion and distrust."

Helms also was an outspoken opponent of laws to protect homosexuals from discrimination and of funding for AIDS research, but he writes in the book that his views evolved during his final years in the Senate. He cited friendships he developed with North Carolina evangelist Franklin Graham and rock singer Bono, both of whom got him involved in the fight against the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

"Until then," Helms writes, "it had been my feeling that AIDS was a disease largely spread by reckless and voluntary sexual and drug-abusing behavior, and that it would probably be confined to those in high risk populations. I was wrong."
  • Joel Roberts

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