Hillary Clinton Expands Apology for 'Mistake' on Nancy Reagan, AIDS History

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton today issued a second apology for inaccurately stating a day earlier that the late Nancy Reagan and former President Ronald Reagan helped to “start a national conversation” about HIV and AIDS. 

“Yesterday, at Nancy Reagan’s funeral, I said something inaccurate when speaking about the Reagans’ record on HIV and AIDS,” Clinton wrote in a blog post on Medium published Saturday night. 

Clinton’s lengthy statement continued: 

“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.

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.

The AIDS crisis in America began as a quiet, deadly epidemic. Because of discrimination and disregard, it remained that way for far too long. When many in positions of power turned a blind eye, it was groups like ACT UP, Gay Men’s Health Crisis and others that came forward to shatter the silence — because as they reminded us again and again, Silence = Death. They organized and marched, held die-ins on the steps of city halls and vigils in the streets. They fought alongside a few courageous voices in Washington, like U.S. Representative Henry Waxman, who spoke out from the floor of Congress.

Then there were all the people whose names we don’t often hear today — the unsung heroes who fought on the front lines of the crisis, from hospital wards and bedsides, some with their last breath. Slowly, too slowly, ignorance was crowded out by information. People who had once closed their eyes opened their hearts.

If not for those advocates, activists, and ordinary, heroic people, we would not be where we are in preventing and treating HIV and AIDS. Their courage — and their refusal to accept silence as the status quo — saved lives.

We’ve come a long way. But we still have work to do to eradicate this disease for good and to erase the stigma that is an echo of a shameful and painful period in our country’s history. (Read Clinton’s entire statement here.)

Clinton made the initial remarks in an interview at the funeral of the former First Lady Friday, praising Mrs. Reagan’s “very effective, low-key advocacy” as being crucial to encouraging the public to act as the virus ravaged the gay community in particular. 

While Nancy Reagan is sometimes credited with pushing her husband to do something about AIDS, the Reagans’ ultimate legacy around the devastating virus is one of prolonged silence, as President Reagan didn’t give a formal speech about the epidemic until 1987, when more than 40,000 Americans had died from the disease. 

The presdient of the Human Rights Campaign (which endorsed Clinton early in the primary season) issued a sharply worded rebuke on Friday, reminding the former Secretary of State that Nancy Reagan was "no hero" about HIV and AIDS. 

READER COMMENTS ()