As a gay man, I was certainly surprised to see Hillary Clinton's comments on Nancy Reagan's role in pushing for HIV/AIDS funding, which Clinton praised as 'quiet advocacy.' In the large context of things, the Reagan administration can be held accountable for letting HIV AIDS become an epidemic with its social conservative bent against homosexuality leading to utter ignorance of the spread of HIV. In that broad context, crediting anyone from the Reagan White House - especially someone whose last name is also 'Reagan' can definitely appear outrageous. The Reagans' legacy on HIV is most assuredly not a net positive.
Clinton quickly apologized.
I forgive Hillary Clinton, and as a gay man of color, I am not going to stand for having this one gaffe wipe out a lifetime of advocacy, fights and achievements of a strong woman. I am not going to stand for the bludgeoning of a woman who declared on the world stage that "Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights."
First of all, while in the context of praise, Hillary Clinton was wrong to give credit to Nancy Reagan for being an advocate for HIV/AIDS causes, she was technically accurate that at one point in time - granted, when it was already too late - Nancy Reagan had some influence on this issue within the Reagan White House.
Did Nancy Reagan deserve praise for this late hour influence? Absolutely not, and that's where Hillary Clinton was wrong. But it's important to note that she wasn't just making it up.
Second, if we are to consider the context of praise while judging Clinton's statement - and I certainly believe we must - then the full context of the statement must be judged. Hillary Clinton was, in essence, being eulogistic. She was talking about a dead woman, a dead First Lady, whatever her checkered past. Clinton was not speaking as simply a presidential candidate but a former First Lady herself and what often the role of presidential spouses in crafting policy is, quiet advocacy. The "quiet advocacy" comment actually came at the conclusion of Clinton counting all the diseases Nancy Reagan had advocated for cures for, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, as well as gun violence prevention.
Here is that full context.
Hillary Clinton was talking about Mrs. Reagan's quiet advocacy on all of these things - from stem cell research to gun violence, but you wouldn't know that to look at the snippet going around the Internet that makes it look like Clinton somehow said Nancy Reagan was only significant for HIV.
Last, but not least, I remember that roughly eight years ago, a young charismatic candidate for President greatly damaged my heart when he allowed one Donnie McClurkin, a pastor who believed that homosexuality can be (and needed to be) "cured", to campaign with him on stage - not once but in a series of campaign events. That man turned out to be the most effective and fiercest advocate for LGBT rights in the White House, becoming the first sitting US president to declare support for marriage equality and leading Congress to repeal the ban on service by openly gay Americans. He turned out to be the man whose Justice Department implored the Supreme Court to overturn the discriminatory federal marriage law DOMA, and succeeded. His name is President Barack Obama.
I know better than to judge the character of someone by single, isolated actions, let alone by a single, isolated sentence. The case, I imagine, is the same for everyone else, even those who are overlooking that because they feel hurt or simply because they have found a new weapon to beat their political opponent with.
But this IS a single sentence in a single interview. This is a single sentence in a single interview that Hillary Clinton has taken back.
Get over it. Get on with life. We have progress to protect. We have our country's future at stake.