Some liberals lashed out at Hillary Clinton for saying kind things about Nancy Reagan at the former first lady’s funeral today, particularly about how Reagan drew attention to the 1980s AIDS crisis.
Ron Reagan Jr., who was a ballet dancer during that time and saw colleagues stricken by the deadly virus, has said that Nancy helped drive home to President Reagan that the crisis was more widespread than perhaps his advisers were reporting. Additionally, the death of friend and actor Rock Hudson made the crisis more than an “abstract” as Nancy pressed her husband to channel more into AIDS research.
Clinton attended the Simi Valley, Calif., funeral in a first ladies’ delegation of Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Rosalynn Carter. President George W. Bush attended in the place of his mother, 90-year-old Barbara Bush. President Clinton was campaigning in Illinois on his wife’s behalf.
At the Reagan Presidential Library, Clinton told MSNBC that she and Nancy Reagan “had occasion as first ladies, both present and former, to be involved in promoting good causes, to see one another on occasion.”
“And, you know, I think that she had not only an incredible relationship with her husband and supported him in every way, but she had a lot of courage and grit. Her grace and strength after the attempted assassination was extraordinary,” Clinton said. “And the work that she did in later years on Alzheimer’s, standing up for research and pushing the agenda forward, is something that I deeply respect.”
The Democratic presidential candidate, who has pressed gun control on the campaign trail, stressed that the Reagans supported the Brady bill, named after the White House press secretary gravely wounded in the assassination attempt on President Reagan.
“And when something happens to you, like a good dear friend, Jim Brady, being shot and suffering, your husband having Alzheimer’s, it can’t help but change your perspective and I wish more people would pay attention to those who have gone through these issues,” Clinton said.
“The other point to make too is 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. Nobody wanted to do anything about it. And, you know, 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.”
Hillary also praised Nancy’s advocacy against drugs and encouraging negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev.
“I admire all of my predecessors, because there’s no there’s no formula. There’s no guidebook you’re given. You have to figure out how to support your husband and his agenda, his presidency, but also find a role for yourself,” she added. “…She deserves to be remembered for her many contributions.”
The condemnation came swiftly.
— Peter Staley (@peterstaley) March 11, 2016
Why is Hillary Clinton so out of touch on basic liberal attitudes? The thing about Reagan administration & AIDS is core to LGBT community.
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) March 11, 2016
Soon after her comments ignited a tweetstorm and made AIDS the top trending topic on Twitter, Clinton issued an apology Friday afternoon: “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 am sorry.”