In an interview before Nancy Reagan’s funeral today, Hillary Clinton said President and Mrs. Reagan started a national conversation about AIDS.
“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 Reagan and Mrs. Reagan, in particular Mrs. Reagan, we started a national conversation, when before nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it,” Clinton said at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
This has caused blowback on the web because, as the item at Talking Points Memo put it in understated fashion: The Reagans had a “mixed legacy” on AIDS. Some do credit Nancy Reagan with eventually persuading her husband, behind the scenes, to increase funding for research. But …
Nancy Reagan reportedly turned down a request from her friend, the actor Rock Hudson, to be transferred to another hospital so he could receive necessary treatment for complications related to AIDS in 1985, according to BuzzFeed. Hudson died less than two months later.
In December 2014, Mother Jones published transcripts of President Reagan’s press secretary Larry Speakes joking about AIDS and subsequent research in 1982, 1983, and 1984.
More here from the Guardian, which notes that Reagan was president for five years before he said the word AIDS. People in a position to have had specific dealings with the Reagan administration remember Reagan’s refusal to join in the fight. A pity Clinton didn’t read this before speaking. Typical were remarks by a San Francisco politician, Tom Ammiano, who lost a partner to AIDS and who angrily retells an anecdote about those who urged his partner not to speak publicly about his illness.
Ammiano, who attended more than 100 funerals in the first 10 years of the epidemic, sees that mindset writ large in Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
“The response of the Reagan administration was very, very slow,” he said. “There’s a very bitter taste that won’t be forgotten.
‘‘All the sugar coating about her death and her funeral and her contributions, all that means nothing when you look at the price people are still paying.”
Gawker put it this way: “Hillary Clinton’s Reagan AIDS Revisionism Is Shocking, Insulting, and Utterly Inexplicable”
Vox called it “really weird.”
UPDATE: Oops. This came later in the afternoon. From Vox:
After facing strong waves of criticism online for a couple of hours, Clinton apologized, offering the following statement:
While the Reagans were strong advocates 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.