Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is being criticized after stating that former first lady Nancy Reagan “started a national conversation” on HIV/AIDS in the 1980s.
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) March 11, 2016
“It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about H.I.V./AIDS back in the 1980s,” Clinton told MSNBC host. “And because of both President and Mrs. Reagan – in particular, Mrs. Reagan – we started a national conversation, when before nobody would talk about it. Nobody wanted anything to do with it.”
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) March 13, 2016
Critics and gay rights activists pointed out that the Reagans did not address the issue until the Reagan administration ended. Even Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders spoke out about his rival’s claims.
— CNN (@CNN) March 13, 2016
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified the deadly sexually transmitted disease in 1981 but President Ronald Reagan addressed the health crisis in 1987 and during that time, more than 40,000 Americans had died, and 36,000 more had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
Nancy was praised for her contribution in the fight against drug abuse with her “Just Say No” campaign and later on for supporting stem cell treatment to cure Alzheimer’s disease, but she and her husband kept mum on the issue of AIDS.
When her friend, actor Rock Hudson, was dying of the disease in 1985, the White House allegedly ignored his request for medical help. Nancy did eventually convince the President to address the crisis several years after health officials warned them of the epidemic.
Nancy Reagan coined an expression when asked to help a dying friend, Rock Hudson: "Just say no!" She used it later. pic.twitter.com/lTRF8O9c3D
— Mrs. Betty Bowers (@BettyBowers) March 6, 2016
After her statement sparked conversation on social media, Clinton apologized on Twitter and on Medium.
“While the Reagans were strong advocates for stem cell research and finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, I misspoke about their record on H.I.V. and AIDS,” she said in a statement, which she posted on Twitter.
Hillary Clinton’s statement on her comments about the Reagans' record on HIV and AIDS: pic.twitter.com/RtIs0zpJfk
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 11, 2016