On Saturday, Hillary Clinton apologized at length for her remarks earlier in the week on Ronald and Nancy Reagan and their legacy on HIV and AIDS, calling her comments a “mistake, plain and simple.”
At former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s funeral, Clinton told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that the couple started a “national conversation” about the epidemic, prompting a swift backlash.
“It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS back in the 1980s,” Clinton told Mitchell. “And because of both President and Mrs. Reagan – in particular, Mrs. Reagan – we started a national conversation when before no one would talk about it, no one 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 conscience, and people began to say, ‘Hey, we have to do something about this, too.’”
Many found Clinton’s assertion problematic, and it revived criticisms of the Reagan administration’s policies on drugs and response to the public health crisis. The presidential candidate later said she “misspoke” in a statement released hours after the interview.
Clinton addressed her critics in greater detail in a post on the blog-publishing platform Medium on Saturday evening.
“Yesterday, at Nancy Reagan’s funeral, I said something inaccurate when speaking about the Reagans’ record on HIV and AIDS,” Clinton wrote. “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.”
The former secretary of state then attributed the discourse surrounding the epidemic to activists and advocates who raised awareness about HIV and AIDS and invoked the mantra that silence ultimately equates to resigning to death.
“To be clear, the Reagans did not start a national conversation about HIV and AIDS,” the post continued. ”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.”
Clinton then delineated her policy platforms on health care, drugs, HIV and AIDS.
“For the first time, an AIDS-free generation is in sight,” Clinton said. “As president, I promise you that I will not let up until we reach that goal. We will not leave anyone behind.”