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BOB RAFSKY READS  

 "I'm Not Dying Anymore"  (~1990)

 "This isn't a fucking show, we're actually dying!"

  

        MP3      [ 6:37 ]

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MEDIA NEWS CLIPS FOR BOB RAFSKY

Bob Rafsky ZAPS Candidate Clinton

  

"I feel your pain..."   



THE 1992 CAMPAIGN  
AIDS Protester Provokes Clinton's Anger
The New York Times Late Edition
By ROBIN TONER   27 March 1992

Gov. Bill Clinton, impassioned and angry and hoarse, defended his political character and his record on AIDS yesterday in an emotional exchange with an AIDS protester at a midtown supper club.

Mr. Clinton was just beginning his standard political speech when the protester demanded: "What are you going to do about AIDS? We're dying!"

Mr. Clinton tried to defuse the situation, telling the man, "I know how much it hurts; I have friends dying of AIDS." But the protester persisted, shouting, "We're not dying of AIDS as much as we're dying of 11 years of Government neglect."

Mr. Clinton countered, to applause, "That's why I'm running for President." He went on to recite his program to combat AIDS, but the protester suggested he was more driven by ambition than committment.

At that point, an angry Mr. Clinton declared, "If I were dying of ambition, I wouldn't have stood up here and put up with all this crap I've put up with over the past six months."

The Arkansas Governor went to vent his frustration with the attacks on his character, seemingly unable to let the subject go. "Don't you understand that one of the problems in this country is, we all devalue each other?" he said.

At one point, he told the protester, "I want you to live." But the Governor, who seemed weary at the end of a week that saw his front-runner status jarred by a loss in Connecticut, concluded, "What good does it do for us to shout at one another?"

The Associated Press identified the protester as Bob Rafsky, a member of the AIDS activism group Act-Up.


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THE 1992 CAMPAIGN: Verbatim
Heckler Stirs Clinton Anger: Excerpts From the Exchange
28 March 1992   The New York Times Late Edition

Following are excerpts from an exchange on Thursday between Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas and Bob Rafsky, a member of the AIDS activism group Act Up, at Laura Belle, a nightclub in Midtown Manhattan, as recorded by the Cable News Network:

(Heckling begins)

RAFSKY. This is the center of the AIDS epidemic, what are you going to do? Are you going to start a war on AIDS? Are you going to just go on and ignore it? Are you going declare war on AIDS? Are you going to put somebody in charge? Are you going to do more than you did as the Governor of Arkansas? We're dying in this state. What are you going to do about AIDS?

CLINTON. Can we talk now?

RAFSKY. Go ahead and talk.

CLINTON. Most places where I go, nobody wants to talk. They want us to listen to them. I'm listening. You can talk. I know how it hurts. I've got friends who've died of AIDS.

RAFSKY. Bill, we're not dying of AIDS as much as we are from 11 years of Government neglect.

CLINTON. And that's why I'm running for President, to do something about it. I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll tell you what I'd do. First of all I would not just talk about it in campaign speeches; it would become a part of my obsession as President. There are two AIDS Commission reports gathering dust somewhere in the White House, presented by commissions appointed by a Republican President. There's some good recommendations in there. I would implement the recommendations of the AIDS Commission. I would broaden the H.I.V. definition to include women and I.V. drug users, for more research and development and treatment purposes.

RAFSKY. (interrupting and unintelligible). . . .you know it's true.

CLINTON. Would you just calm down?

RAFSKY. You're dying of (unintelligible). . . .

CLINTON. Let me tell you something. If I were dying of ambition, I wouldn't have stood up here and put up with all this crap I've put up with for the last six months. I'm fighting to change this country.

And let me tell you something else. Let me tell you something else. You do not have the right to treat any human being, including me, with no respect because of what you're worried about. I did not cause it. I'm trying to do something about it. I have treated you and all the people who've interrupted my rally with a hell of a lot more respect than you've treated me, and it's time you started thinking about that.

I feel your pain, I feel your pain, but if you want to attack me personally you're no better than Jerry Brown and all the rest of these people who say whatever sounds good at the moment. If you want something to be done, you ask me a question and you listen. If you don't agree with me, go support somebody else for President but quit talking to me like that. This is not a matter of personal attack; it's a matter of human wrong.

You can be for George Bush, you can be for somebody else, but do not stand up here at my rally, where other people paid to come, and insult me without -- listen, that's fine, I'll give you your money back if you want it, out of my own pocket.

I understand that you're hurting, but you won't stop hurting by trying to hurt other people. That's what I try to tell all you folks. You're not going to stop hurting by trying to hurt other people.

The reason I'm still in public life is because I've kept my commitments. That's why I'm still here. That's why I'm still standing here. And I'm sick and tired of all these people who don't know me, know nothing about my life, know nothing about the battles that I've fought, know nothing about the life I've lived, making snotty-nose remarks about how I haven't done anything in my life and it's all driven ambition. That's bull, and I'm tired of it.

And anybody -- there are other choices on the ballot. Go get 'em is my answer to you. If you want somebody that'll fight AIDS, vote for me, because when I come in to do something, I do it, and I fight for it.



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METRO OBITUARIES

Robert Rafsky, Writer and Activist in AIDS Fight, Dies
23 February 1993   The Washington Post    by Jay Mathews   

Robert Rafsky, 47, a writer and publicist whose televised confrontation with presidential candidate Bill Clinton galvanized the anti-AIDS movement, died Feb. 20 at New York University Hospital. He had AIDS.

A warm and witty man in private, Mr. Rafsky turned himself into a loud and relentless spokesman for the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP) after he found out in 1987 that he was infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He was arrested several times, participated in dozens of demonstrations, and was profiled on the CBS program "60 Minutes" for his, work against pharmaceutical companies allegedly overcharging for and slowing the release of AIDS drugs.

His most publicized moment came March 26 during the New York primary when he slipped into a Clinton fund-raiser and shouted at the future president, "This is the center of the epidemic. What are you doing about it?"

The videotape of the rest of the confrontation was shown throughout the world. When Clinton said he was concerned about AIDS and advised Mr. Rafsky to calm down, Mr. Rafsky replied, "I can't calm down. I'm dying of AIDS while you're dying of ambition."

That brought a rare display of Clinton's temper: "Let me tell you something," he said. "If I was dying of ambition, I wouldn't stand up here and put up with all this crap I've put up with over the last six months. I'm fighting to change this country."

Michelangelo Signorile, a columnist for the Advocate, said Mr. Rafsky "was responsible for Clinton making a whole lot of promises on AIDS to the gay community."

Mr. Rafsky grew up in a politically involved family in Philadelphia and became managing editor of the student newspaper, the Crimson, while at Harvard University. He was famous there for his humor and his perfectionism, crumbling up 10 or 11 opening paragraphs of an article he had written before coming up with one he liked.

He developed a successful public relations career in New York, working for the state Urban Development Corp., Howard Rubenstein & Associates, and Pro-Media.

In 1987, he and his wife, Babette, separated and began an amicable joint custody of their daughter, Sara. He began telling friends he was gay.

He became the chief spokesman for ACT-UP and used his publicity skills to win the organization prominent national coverage. "He was articulate, contentious, persuasive, dogged and very often right," said Los Angeles Times correspondent Victor F. Zonana, organizer of the New York chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

Mr. Rafsky wrote very personal essays on AIDS that were published in the New York Times, the Village Voice, the New York Daily News, OutWeek and QW. He was working on a book, written in the form of letters to his daughter, at the time of his death. He was an omnivorous reader and film buff who was delighted that his daughter, at age 7, knew several Broadway musicals by heart.

In QW last September he wrote of being asked to designate a "health-care proxy" to make decisions if he became comatose. "I'm between lovers right now, desperately trying to convince myself it's not my natural state. Whom can I choose?" he said. "I stared at the health-care proxy form for a while. Then I left it on my table, in plain sight, as a reminder to me to get a life, if only at the last moment."

Mr. Rafsky became an active member of the Treatment Action Group, whose demonstrations were successful in persuading several drug companies to lower the prices of their AIDS drugs and improve their distribution. On a one-to-one basis "he was enormously influential," said Peter Staley, a founding member of the group. "On `60 Minutes' people saw the really forceful and demonstrative side of him, but he was also incredibly personable and warm on a one-to-one."

Mr. Rafsky occasionally joked about his "bad timing" in becoming an active homosexual in the middle of an epidemic. When "60 Minutes" correspondent Ed Bradley asked if he took responsibility for his infection, he said, "Yes, I do. The question is what does a decent society do with people who hurt themselves because they're human; who smoke too much, who eat too much, who drive carelessly, who don't have safe sex? . . . I think the answer's that a decent society does not put people out to pasture and let them die because they've done a human thing."

In addition to his daughter, of Brooklyn, N.Y., his survivors include his parents, William and Selma of Philadelphia, and a brother, Lawrence of Livingston, N.J.

He ended his September essay on his health-care proxy, which he never signed, with his own living will:

It said: "I'm the same as I was in the fullness of my life: confused, uncertain, knowing next to nothing. The only difference is that the disguises I wore over my confusion are now beyond my grasp.

"Be kind, if you can. There may come a perfect moment between my parting being too brief and my suffering being too long. If you see it, go for it, and give the order not to resuscitate. If no such moment emerges, improvise.

"Whatever you must do for me or to me, I want you to know I forgive you. I love you, too. Goodbye."


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OBITUARY

Robert Rafsky, 47, Media Coordinator For AIDS Protesters
23 February 1993   The New York Times   By MARVINE HOWE

Robert Rafsky, a public relations executive and advocate for people with AIDS, who confronted Bill Clinton during the presidential campaign, died Saturday at New York University Medical Center. He was 47 and lived in Brooklyn.

The cause of death was AIDS, said his former wife, Barbara Krolik.

Mr. Rafsky was a senior vice president of Howard J. Rubenstein & Associates, the New York City public relations firm, from 1982 to 1989. He left to devote full time to helping Act Up, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, become the nation's most prominent AIDS protest group. Sought Faster Drug Approval

As Act Up's media coordinator in New York, he helped to focus attention on the AIDS epidemic. And as a member of Act Up's treatment action group, he was active in efforts to speed up Federal approval of AIDS drugs, and helped persuade drug manufacturers to reduce prices and improve distribution.

A member of Act Up since 1987, Mr. Rafsky was arrested several times for civil disobedience at demonstrations.

During a Democratic fund-raiser in midtown Manhattan on March 26, Mr. Rafsky challenged Mr. Clinton to define his AIDS policies. "What are you going to do about AIDS? We're dying!" Mr. Rafsky said in the televised exchange.

"That's why I'm running for President, to do something about it," Mr. Clinton responded. Subsequently, Mr. Clinton solicited the help of leading AIDS advocates to draft a specific AIDS agenda that he said he would carry out as president. Writing of AIDS Struggle

Mr. Rafsky recounted his struggle with AIDS in an article on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times in April. "There's not much to do except to keep fighting the epidemic, and those whose actions or inactions prolong it, until I get too sick to fight," he wrote. "I'll try to die a good death, if I can figure out what one is."

At the time of his death, he was writing an autobiography about his work as an AIDS activist tentatively titled, "A Letter to Sara," a reference to his daughter.

Born in New York City, he graduated from Harvard in 1968. He worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Community Affairs, then became director of public affairs for the United States Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. He returned to New York City as a spokesman for the State Urban Development Corporation.

His marriage ended in divorce in 1985.

Surviving are his daughter, of Brooklyn; his parents, William and Selma, of Philadelphia, and a brother, Lawrence, of Livingston, N.J.





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