At the funeral of Nancy Reagan, who died last week at 92, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton praised the fellow former First Lady for “starting a national conversation” on HIV and AIDs in the 1980s, a time during which she claimed “nobody would talk about it.” Backlash came fast and quick from those who remembered the decade well: according to ABC News, over 20,000 Americans died from the disease before President Ronald Reagan spoke out about its effects in 1987, well into his second term. The First Lady, who held great influence over her husband, stayed mum on the issue and notoriously shunned her friend actor Rock Hudson when he was dying from the disease in Paris.
Over the week, Clinton released an apology for her comments on Medium, writing, “I made a mistake, plain and simple.”
“To be clear, the Reagans did not start a national conversation about HIV and AIDS. That distinction belongs to generations of brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, along with straight allies, who started not just a conversation but a movement that continues to this day,” Clinton said. She also noted that when her husband accepted the party’s nomination at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, the couple “marked a break with the past” by including two HIV-positive speakers on stage.
Read the full statement on Medium.