SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (UPI) — Hours after praising former first lady Nancy Reagan’s legacy on the AIDS epidemic, Hillary Clinton recanted the comments and apologized to her supporters.
Clinton, who attended Reagan’s funeral in California with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, told MSNBC Reagan’s words about the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s helped jumpstart the national conversation about the disease.
“It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was to talk about HIV [and] AIDS back in the 1980s,” she said. “Because of both President and Mrs. Reagan, in particular Mrs. Reagan, we started a national conversation where before nobody would talk about it. Nobody wanted anything to do with it.
“It penetrated the public conscience. People began to say, ‘Hey, we have to do something about this, too.'”
Criticism of Clinton’s praise quickly surfaced on Twitter as people pointed out Ronald Reagan initially ignored the epidemic and a spokesman made homophobic comments the first time he was asked about it by the press. Reagan did not speak publicly about the disease until the fifth year of his presidency, after it had killed hundreds of thousands of men, most of whom were gay.
The Democratic presidential candidate responded, apologizing for her praise of the Reagans.
“While the Reagans were strong 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,” she said in a statement issued Friday afternoon.
Nancy Reagan died Sunday in Los Angeles. She was 94. A private funeral service was held Friday at her husband’s presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif.
While the Reagans and Clintons had vastly different views on policy, Hillary Clinton praised the loving marriage the Reagans shared.
“I think she had not only an incredible relationship with her husband … but she had a lot of courage and grit,” she said.
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