Larry Kramer Responds to Hillary Clinton’s Reagan AIDS Advocacy Gaffe

Larry Kramer on June 1, 2015 in New York City.

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In an interview with MSNBC during Nancy Reagan’s televised funeral on Friday, Hillary Clinton made horribly inaccurate comments about the Reagan administration’s handling of the AIDS crisis, and particularly Nancy Reagan’s role in “start[ing] a national conversation” about HIV/AIDS in America. Clinton’s words confused and angered many—and rightfully so. Nancy Reagan is widely viewed, along with her husband, as having turned her back on the thousands of citizens who were dying of AIDS in the 1980s, including her friend, Rock Hudson. For Clinton to call her actions “very effective, low-key advocacy” is plain insulting.

I spoke to legendary writer and activist, Larry Kramer—who has railed against government inaction and community apathy on HIV/AIDS since the start of the plague—to get his opinion about Clinton’s comments:

I wonder if Hillary had any notion of how hateful what she said is to so many people who were going to support her. For the first time I really questioned whether I’m going to vote for her.

[Nancy] never said dipshit! And she … oh please, don’t get me started. She and Ronnie weren’t going to, in any way, talk about AIDS because they have a ballet dancer son whom the world believes to be gay and which they don’t want to confront.

I’m just so disappointed in her that I may just vote for Bernie. And I’m hearing that from a lot of gay people. The gay population is up in arms over this. I don’t think that she realizes that this is a big issue for us, what she has said in her stupidity.

I think the gay population is entitled to an apology and that we should demand an apology in return for our vote and support.

As of Friday afternoon, Clinton had issued a brief apology via Twitter, suggesting she had meant to reference the Reagans’ support of stem cell and Alzheimer’s research.

But if the ongoing storm of Internet outrage is any indication, many gay people are waiting for more.

Update, Mar. 14, 2016: Over the weekend, Hillary Clinton released a longer statement via the platform Medium in which she clearly admits to the mistake and touts her own impressive history in HIV/AIDS advocacy and policy work. “To be clear,” she wrote, “the Reagans did not start a national conversation about HIV and AIDS. That distinction belongs to generations of brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, along with straight allies, who started not just a conversation but a movement that continues to this day.” Quite right.