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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott mentioned in Elton John's memoir -- not for his voice

17

July

Elton JohnGov. Rick Scott has made his way into the pages of a new memoir by singer-songwriter Elton John.

A year ago, Sir Elton, as he is formally called, penned a letter to Florida's governor complaining about the administration's plans to change the eligibility requirements of Florida's Aids Drug Assistance Program, suggesting it would "eliminate access to life saving medication for thousands of low income Floridians living with HIV/AIDS."

Sir Elton, along with his civil partner, Elton John AIDS Foundation Chairman David Furnish, warned the governor that lowering income eligibility could cause as many as 1,600 people to lose their assistance in obtaining antiretroviral medication as well as the 3,900 people on the waiting list -- the longest in the nation.

They received a letter back from then-Surgeon General Frank Farmer, who responded that while Scott's budget proposed full funding of the program the Legislature hadn't allocated any additional funds and the demand for the drugs were exceeding the resources, forcing the cutbacks.

"We welcome any suggestions or ideas you have to help us do more with our existing funding,'' Farmer wrote. Then he made his own suggestion: "I once again cordially invite you to consider an ADAP fundraising concert series in Florida. I know you have a big fan base here and we would love to welcome you to the Sunshine State." Here's the exchange: Download Elton John letter 1  Download Elton John letter 2

Sir Elton didn't take kindly to the idea that the pop star should make up for where the government fell short. In an interview on National Public Radio's Morning Edition today, he told host Steve Inskeep he included the exchange in his memoir, Love is the Cure, to make a point. 

"It's not my job to [fund a state's AIDS program],'' he told It's the government's priority to do that. I can't do benefit concerts for Florida, for the people with AIDS in Florida. It's their responsibility; they need to do what's right. And cutting funding for the people that [can] least afford it is criminal."

Here's the full excerpt from today's NPR interview:

On asking Florida not to cut funding for HIV and AIDS patients, and Florida Surgeon General Frank Farmer suggesting he play a benefit to help raise money

"[EJAF is] an AIDS organization, and whenever anybody's funding is cut — and it's usually cut, especially in this case in Florida, [for] the people that can afford it least ... then we're going to write a letter about it. And we wrote a letter to [Florida Gov. Rick Scott] himself. ...

"It's not my job to [fund a state's AIDS program]. It's the government's priority to do that. I can't do benefit concerts for Florida, for the people with AIDS in Florida. It's their responsibility; they need to do what's right. And cutting funding for the people that [can] least afford it is criminal."

On why funding for AIDS treatment is the government's responsibility

"We can solve this AIDS problem forever if the government gives the funding. If people are encouraged to come out and say they're HIV-positive and they're given their treatments, then obviously the people who are marginalized — like intravenous drug users, prisoners, people who are made to feel less-than — if they're given the support of the government and they're given the funding, then it's going to help solve the spread of AIDS and HIV in America. We have to try and get rid of this shortsightedness when it comes to HIV and the stigma around it."

Photo: NPR

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 5:22pm]

    

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