Hillary Clinton 'misspoke' on Reagans' HIV/AIDS record, backlash ensues

Botched praise from Hillary Clinton about the Reagan family's record on HIV/AIDS is earning the democratic presidential candidate some heat online. She has since apologized for them, saying that she misspoke.

Clinton praised the Reagans for starting a 'national conversation'

Hillary Clinton pays her respects during the funeral for former first lady Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California on Friday. Clinton came under fire for praising the Reagans' response to HIV/AIDS. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Botched praise from Hillary Clinton about the Reagan family's record on HIV/AIDS is earning the democratic presidential candidate some heat online.

Clinton made the remarks during an interview with MSNBC while attending Friday's funeral for Nancy Reagan. She has since apologized, saying she "misspoke".

"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 when before nobody would talk about it," she said.

"With her very effective, low-key advocacy [...] it penetrated the public conscience and people began to say: 'Hey, we have to do something about this too.'"

But President Reagan did not publicly mention the word AIDS until 1985. He made his first public speech about it in 1987 — by that time, more than 20,000 Americans had already died from it.

This was despite public protests, particularly from gay rights activists, pushing the Reagan administration to respond to the epidemic. The initial reports of the disease came out in 1981.

Over the years, reports have surfaced with more details about the Reagan administration's attitude towards the disease. Last year's documentary short, When AIDS Was Funny, shows how questions about AIDS from the White House press corps resulted in laughs and jokes from former press secretary Larry Speakes and the corps itself.

The inaccuracies with Clinton's praise of the Reagans were quickly pointed out online, which resulted in a swiftly released apology on Twitter.

Many took the opportunity to call out Clinton, claiming her words misrepresented history.

That included the president of the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT rights group that endorsed Clinton.

Chad Griffin is a former White House aide. Clinton has earned extensive support for LGBT advocacy groups and donors.

Others, namely Clinton supporters, thought it was merely a gaffe.

But for some, the apology wasn't enough.

With files from the Associated Press


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