Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has retracted a statement praising the Reagans for starting a “national conversation” about AIDS.
The Reagans are often remembered for having ignored the AIDS crisis in the 1980s until thousands of people had died.
Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library as mourners flocked to pay respects to Mrs Reagan at her funeral, Mrs Clinton said: “It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS back in the 1980s.
“And because of both President Reagan and Mrs. Reagan, in particular Mrs. Reagan, we started a national conversation, when before nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it.”
She went on to praise Nancy Reagan for her “very effective, low-key advocacy.”
“It penetrated the public conscience. And people began to say, ‘Hey we have to do something about this too,’” she said.
Many have taken to social media to express outrage, with some suggesting Mrs Clinton was attempting to “rewrite history”.
Clinton later tweeted a statement from her official Twitter account which read: “While the Reagans were strong advocates for stem cell research and finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, I missspoke about their record on HIV and AIDS. For that, I’m sorry.”
Former first lady Nancy Reagan died last week of congestive heart failure, aged 94.
But despite headlines describing her as “fiercely loyal” “dignified” and “warm”, and others pointing to her involvement in the ‘Just Say No’ drugs campaign, others point to her questionable history during the AIDS crisis.
Her husband, Ronald Reagan, was heavily criticised for not mentioning the word AIDS until 1987, after many thousands had died from complications related to the disease.
Nancy was sometimes credited with pushing her husband to eventually fund some research into treatment for HIV/AIDS, but more recently it appeared that she had ignored pleas for help from friend Rock Hudson.
Last year it was revealed that Hollywood icon Rock Hudson, a close friend of the Reagans, had appealed to them for help whilst seeking treatment for AIDS in 1985.
According to a telegram from the time, which remained buried until 2015, they had declined to help Hudson get access to an experimental treatment in a Paris hospital.
The star died just weeks after the telegram was sent, asking the Reagans to intervene when a doctor wouldn’t admit him because he was not French.
The death of Hudson is usually cited when discussing the beginning of AIDS research funding.