Bill Gates says Donald Trump asked him whether there's a difference between HPV and HIV. (Yes)

Microsoft head recalls two bizarre meetings with Trump, who made remarks about Gates' daughter's appearance

Published May 18, 2018 2:40PM (EDT)

Bill Gates (Getty/Jack Taylor)
Bill Gates (Getty/Jack Taylor)

President Donald Trump asked Bill Gates whether HPV and HIV were the same thing -- twice -- the billionaire Microsoft co-founder said at a recent meeting for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, according to video footage obtained by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. Gates was responding to questions from staff and described two meetings he had with the president after he was elected, adding that Trump spoke in the third person and offered "scary" observations about Gates' daughter's appearance. MSNBC aired the footage Thursday night on "All in With Chris Hayes."

Gates said he had never met Trump prior to his election, but had met with him twice since, in December 2016 and again in March 2017. "There was a thing where he and I were at the same place before the election and I avoided him," Gates added. "Then he got elected. So then I went to see him in December."

Gates said that his daughter, Jennifer, had encountered Trump before. "He knew my daughter, Jennifer, because Trump has this horse show thing down in Florida," he said. "He went up and talked to Jen and was being super nice. And then around 20 minutes later he flew in on a helicopter to the same place. So clearly he had been driven away and he wanted to make a grand entrance on a helicopter."

Apparently, Jennifer's appearance became a talking point in Gates' first meeting with the president. "It was actually kind of scary how much he knew about my daughter's appearance," he said. "Melinda did not like that too well."

In their first meeting at Trump Tower, Gates said he advised Trump to be a leader in driving science and innovation, and they talked broadly about topics related to energy, health and education. He suggested Trump take on a big project, like advancing an HIV vaccine. Their second meeting took place in the White House.

"In both of those two meetings, he asked me if vaccines weren't a bad thing, because he was considering a commission to look into ill effects of vaccines," Gates said. "And somebody — Robert Kennedy Jr., was advising him that vaccines were causing bad things and I said, 'No, that is a dead end, that would be a bad thing, do not do that.'"

"Both times he wanted to know if there was a difference between HIV and HPV, and so I was able to explain that those are things that are rarely confused with each other," he continued, to loud laughter from the audience.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections and affects about 79 million Americans, most of whom are in their late teens or early 20s. At worst, the virus can lead to cancer, but there are vaccines to prevent its transmission. There is still no cure or vaccine for HIV, the retrovirus that can leads to AIDS. Many people infected with the virus can live long and productive lives if the infection is caught early and treated with antiretroviral therapy.

It seems Trump did not take Gates' advice. In his administration's 2018 and 2019 proposed budgets, it recommended substantial cuts to programs that treat and prevent HIV/AIDS, among them a $40 million reduction to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's HIV/AIDS prevention programs and a $26 million cutback to a federal housing program for people living with HIV. The original proposals were not passed by Congress.

In his final description of his interaction with the president, Gates said, "When I walked in, his first sentence kind of threw me off. He said, 'Trump hears that you don't like what Trump is doing.' And I thought, 'Wow, but you are Trump.'" He added, "So I didn't know if the third-party form was what was expected. Well, you know, 'Gates says that Gates knows you're not doing things right.'"

By Rachel Leah

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Bill Gates Donald Trump Health Hiv/aids Hpv Innovation Science Trump Administration