Hillary Clinton apologized Friday after gay-rights and AIDS activists assailed her for saying Nancy Reagan helped start a "national conversation" about AIDS in the 1980s, when protesters were struggling to get more federal help in fighting the disease, the AP reports. Clinton made her initial comments—in which she credited Nancy Reagan with "very effective, low-key advocacy"—in an interview with MSNBC during its coverage of her funeral. Soon after the interview aired, MSNBC's Twitter feed was flooded with comments accusing Clinton of misrepresenting history and insulting the 1980s activists who pressured elected officials to step up the response to AIDS. Clinton soon apologized.
"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," Clinton tweeted. Many activists remain bitter at Ronald Reagan and his administration for what they view as a devastatingly slow response to AIDS. Though initial reports of the disease surfaced in 1981, Reagan did not make his first public speech about it until 1987, by which time it had killed more than 20,000 Americans. A veteran AIDS activist based in New York tweeted that Clinton's remarks were "the most offensive thing possible for my generation of LGBT Americans." The president of the Human Rights Campaign added: "While I respect her advocacy in other areas…Nancy Reagan was, sadly, no hero in the fight against HIV."