Hillary Clinton Lauds Reagans on AIDS. A Backlash Erupts
"But on Friday, Hillary Clinton praised Mrs. Reagan as a force in confronting another disease: H.I.V./AIDS, which was killing alarming numbers of gay men and others during Ronald Reagan’s two terms.
“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,” Mrs. Clinton, who was attending Mrs. Reagan’s funeral in Simi Valley, Calif., told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “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 problem with Mrs. Clinton’s compliment: It was the Reagans who wanted nothing to do with the disease at the time.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first identified the disease in 1981, but Mr. Reagan, despite desperate calls for action and thousands of deaths, did not mention H.I.V. or AIDS publicly until 1985 and did not give a speech about the disease until 1987, when an estimated 40,000 people had already died of the disease and roughly 36,000 more had given a diagnosis.
Indeed, the activist-author Larry Kramer, who chronicled the early years of the epidemic in his play “The Normal Heart,” called Mr. Reagan “Adolf Reagan” and wrote that he “murdered more gay people than anyone in the entire history of the world.”
And in 1985, after the C.D.C. said the AIDS virus could not be spread through casual person-to-person contact, Mr. Reagan expressed skepticism about whether children with AIDS should be allowed to attend school.
Yet Mrs. Clinton said Friday that she had appreciated Mrs. Reagan’s “low-key advocacy” on H.I.V./AIDS, saying “it penetrated the public conscience, and people began to say, ‘Hey, we have to do something about this.’”
She faced a swift and fierce backlash, and issued a contrite apology within hours.
“It’s almost tempting to interpret this as withering, devastating sarcasm,” Gawker wrote. “The Reagans ‘started a national conversation about AIDS’ in the same sense that George W. Bush ‘started a national conversation’ about Iraq.’”
“Marie Antoinette did some incredible LOW KEY ADVOCACY for the French Underclass,” Dan Fishback, a writer and performer, wrote on Twitter."