Former First Lady Nancy Reagan passed away at the age of 94 on Sunday. Her funeral was held today and attended by current First Lady Michelle Obama and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. While remembering the former First Lady Clinton misremembered the history of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. when she praised Reagan for her HIV activism (and not her "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign). See, that never happened. Clinton is now apologizing for her comments.
Clinton sat down with MSNBC to talk about the former First Lady and praised her for being a gun control advocate and an advocate for Alzheimer’s. (Former president Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 83 and lived with the disease for 10 years before he died in 2004). According to the Washington Post, Clinton then added how Nancy had been an AIDS advocate.
Clinton said: "It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS in the 1980s. And because of both President and Mrs. Reagan—in particular Mrs. Reagan—we started a national conversation." She added, "With her very effective, low-key advocacy...it penetrated the public consciousness, and people began to say: we have to do something about this, too.”
Clinton’s comments set LGBTQ activists as well as AIDS activists into a furor, the Washington Post reports. Writer and AIDS activist Larry Kramer told Slate Clinton’s flub has made him question whether he’ll vote for her and how he may even vote for Bernie Sanders because of it.
“I wonder if Hillary had any notion of how hateful what she said is to so many people who were going to support her. For the first time I really questioned whether I’m going to vote for her,” said Kramer. “I’m just so disappointed in her that I may just vote for Bernie. And I’m hearing that from a lot of gay people. The gay population is up in arms over this. I don’t think that she realizes that this is a big issue for us, what she has said in her stupidity.”
As the Washington Post, and Kramer, note, the Reagans refused to address the AIDS crisis. Per the Washington Post, President Reagan acknowledged it in a 1987 speech six years after it was deemed an epidemic.
According to the Washington Post, a friend of the Reagans, actor Rock Hudson, died from AIDS. Buzzfeed News last year reportedly got a hold of documents that revealed Hudson asked Nancy for help in getting treatment, but she denied him.
Clinton later apologized for the comments releasing a statement: "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."