ST. LOUIS, MO -- Hillary Clinton praised the Reagans for starting a “national conversation” about HIV/AIDS today -- a comment that drew backlash from LGBT advocates online who argued the former president and first lady did not do enough soon enough to draw attention to the epidemic.
In response, Clinton quickly issued a statement apologizing for her remarks. “While the Reagans were strong advocates for stem cell research and finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, I misspoke about their record on HIV and AIDS. For that, I’m sorry,” she wrote in a statement on Twitter.
Clinton brought up the Reagans' record unprompted during an interview with MSNBC.
“It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS back in the 1980s. And because of both President and Mrs. Reagan, in particular Mrs. Reagan, we started a national conversation, when before nobody would talk about it,” the Democratic presidential candidate said before attending Mrs. Reagan’s funeral today.
“And, you know, that too is something that I really appreciate with her very effective low-key advocacy, but it penetrated the public conscience and people began to say, 'Hey, we have to do something about this too,’” Clinton continued.
Clinton's remark raised eyebrows online.
Clinton supporter and president of the Human Rights Campaign Chad Griffin was one of the first who called out Clinton. “While I respect her advocacy on issues like stem cell and Parkinson’s research, Nancy Reagan was, sadly, no hero in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” Griffin tweeted.
LGBT Buzzfeed reporter Chris Geidner also was quick to point out that President Reagan did not give a major speech on HIV/AIDS until six years after the CDC began noting the emergence of the disease.
And just this morning, the Guardian wrote an op-ed about the Reagans’ work with the disease, titled, "The first lady who looked away: Nancy and the Reagans’ troubling Aids legacy.”