Clinton has walked back her earlier statement crediting Ronald and Nancy Reagan with helping start a national conversation on AIDS.
Saying she misspoke is a welcome start, but Clinton needs to revisit this issue because her remarks caused genuine hurt to the LGBT community (and particular to gay men), where she has many eager supporters.
History matters to communities. If a politician gets key facts about history wrong, people rightly suspect that this is a public figure who doesn’t care about them.
If Clinton wants to make amends, she should deliver a speech talking about how she and the nation have evolved on gay issues. The speech could talk about how widespread homophobia was in the 1980s, which led the Reagan administration to neglect the AIDS crisis, with the President not speaking about it until 1987. But it wasn’t just the Reagan administration but a bipartisan neglect by the political mainstream. It was only thanks to radical LGBT activists, in the form of ACT-UP protests, that broke the logjam and forced the country to acknowledge the severity of the crisis.
If Clinton gave such a speech, buttressed and enlivened by an account of her own evolution on these issues and how she came to accept marriage equality, then she would show how deep her commitment is and that the Reagan comments were just an outlier.