Gates Says Trump Questioned Vaccines and Mentioned His Daughter

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump asked Bill Gates to explain the difference between HIV and HPV and expressed “scary” awareness of the Microsoft Corp. co-founder’s 22-year-old daughter when the two men met after the 2016 election, Gates said at a recent meeting with employees of his foundation.

The billionaire philanthropist’s account of his meetings with the president became public late Thursday after MSNBC aired a video of him speaking on stage at what host Chris Hayes said was a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation staff meeting earlier this week. In it, Gates recalled to audience laughter the two meetings he’s had with Trump, one in December 2016 at Trump Tower and the other in March 2017 at 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 recalled, noting that Robert Kennedy Jr. had been urging Trump to launch such an effort. Gates said he told Trump, “that’s a dead end, that would be a bad thing, don’t do that.”

Trump also asked in both meetings “if there was a difference between HIV and HPV so I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other.” Human immunodeficiency virus causes AIDS, while human papillomavirus can cause ovarian and other cancers or genital warts. Vaccines are effective against some strains of HPV but not HIV.

The White House and the Gates Foundation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Gates said he was also alarmed by Trump’s awareness of his daughter Jennifer, a top equestrian who met Trump at a Florida horse show. “When I first talked to him it was actually kind of scary how much he knew about my daughter’s appearance. But Melinda didn’t like that too well,” he said.

Throughout the video, Gates appeared amused by Trump, noting that the president referred to himself in the third person and left the horse show only to return by helicopter to make a “grand entrance.”

The two men had never met before Trump was elected and, Gates joked, even during the 2016 campaign, “he and I were at the same place and I avoided him.”

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