In a forceful and detailed Saturday night statement, Hillary Clinton rolled back on certain comments she made at Nancy Reagan‘s funeral last Friday, when she said the Reagans helped “start a national conversation” about HIV and AIDS, despite historical evidence that the Reagan Administration ignored both for years.
“Yesterday, at Nancy Reagan’s funeral, I said something inaccurate when speaking about the Reagans’ record on HIV and AIDS,” Clinton’s statement, published on Medium, began. “Since then, I’ve heard from countless people who were devastated by the loss of friends and loved ones, and hurt and disappointed by what I said. As someone who has also lost friends and loved ones to AIDS, I understand why. I made a mistake, plain and simple.”
She continued, “I want to use this opportunity to talk not only about where we’ve come from, but where we must go in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“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.”
In subsequent paragraphs, Clinton, 68, did not dwell on her own “inaccurate” comments and instead focused on the work she and others have done to fight HIV and AIDS, and the work still to be done.
“The AIDS crisis in America began as a quiet, deadly epidemic. Because of discrimination and disregard, it remained that way for far too long,” Clinton wrote. “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 they 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.”
Clinton’s Saturday statement included specific calls-to-action to end HIV and AIDS, including more research funding and expanding Medicaid.
Her statement also expanded on an earlier, brief apology, issued soon after her funeral comments.
Reaction to her initial comments about the Reagans was widespread and almost uniformly negative, including from LGBT advocates.
Dan Savage, the popular journalist and columnist, tweeted Friday at Clinton, “Reagans started a ‘national convo about AIDS’ only if people screaming ‘WHY WON’T YOU TALK ABOUT AIDS?!?’ at them counts.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, tweeted Friday, “While I respect her advocacy on issues like stem cell & Parkinson’s research, Nancy Reagan was, sadly, no hero in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”