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Clinton's Comments On Nancy Reagan And HIV/AIDS Cause An Uproar

Patti Davis (left) greets Rosalynn Carter as Hillary Clinton looks at the casket during the graveside service for Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Friday in Simi Valley, Calif.
Chris Carlson
/
AP
Patti Davis (left) greets Rosalynn Carter as Hillary Clinton looks at the casket during the graveside service for Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Friday in Simi Valley, Calif.

Hillary Clinton apologized on Friday after she called the late Nancy Reagan a "very effective, low-key" advocate on HIV/AIDS awareness.

The Democratic presidential candidate now says she "misspoke" when she told MSNBC during Reagan's funeral that the former first lady and her husband, President Ronald Reagan, pushed for recognition of the disease in the national community.

"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," Clinton said.

"When before nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it, and that too is something that I really appreciate with her very effective, low-key advocacy, but it penetrated the public conscious, and people began to say, 'Hey, we have to do something about this, too.'"

However, it wasn't until 1987 that President Reagan gave his first speech on the topic, calling for more testing (but not making it mandatory). At that time, according to the New York Times, there had been nearly 36,000 cases of AIDS and nearly 21,000 deaths. Reagan has been roundly criticized for not doing enough to educate the public and draw attention to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic during his administration.

Clinton released a statement hours later, apologizing for her remarks.

Even Clinton supporters were up in arms over her ill-phrased comments.

Former Clinton White House aide and Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, whose organization has endorsed Clinton, tweeted the former first lady was "no hero" on the issue.

Other LGBT activists, such as columnist Dan Savage, also pushed back on social media.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.

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