SIMI VALLEY, CA - MARCH 11:  Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton follows the casket during funeral and burial services for former first lady Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on March 11, 2016 in Simi Valley, California. The first lady is being buried at the library next to her husband, who died on June 5, 2004. Nancy Reagan died of heart failure at the age of 94. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David McNew/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
SIMI VALLEY, CA - MARCH 11: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton follows the casket during funeral and burial services for former first lady Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on March 11, 2016 in Simi Valley, California. The first lady is being buried at the library next to her husband, who died on June 5, 2004. Nancy Reagan died of heart failure at the age of 94. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:14
Clinton sorry for Nancy Reagan gaffe
CBS
Now playing
01:43
Hillary Clinton defends Bill not resigning
CNN
Now playing
02:12
Clinton: Kavanaugh ceremony a political rally
Now playing
01:48
Clinton laughs at Kavanaugh's comment
CBS
Now playing
01:00
Hillary Clinton makes cameo on 'Murphy Brown'
hillary clinton amanpour impeachment_00014522.jpg
hillary clinton amanpour impeachment_00014522.jpg
Now playing
01:47
Clinton: Impeachment 'will be left to others to decide'
hillary clinton republicans amanpour intv vpx_00000000.jpg
hillary clinton republicans amanpour intv vpx_00000000.jpg
Now playing
03:04
Clinton: Civility starts by electing Democrats
Now playing
00:55
Clinton ends Franklin tribute with smartphone
CNN
Now playing
01:49
Clinton rejects Trump comparisons to her husband
Schomburg Center
Now playing
01:58
Bill Clinton: I apologized for Lewinsky scandal
US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
04:21
Fact check: Hillary Clinton's misleading comments
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the Eighth Annual Women in the World Summit at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on April 6, 2017, in New York City.
Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the Eighth Annual Women in the World Summit at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on April 6, 2017, in New York City.
Now playing
00:39
Hillary Clinton goes after al-Assad, Putin
AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 17:  Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signs copies of her new book 'What Happened' at BookPeople on November 17, 2017 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage)
Rick Kern/WireImage/WireImage
AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 17: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signs copies of her new book 'What Happened' at BookPeople on November 17, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage)
Now playing
01:29
Clinton: Trump parrots what Putin says
TV3
Now playing
01:01
Clinton: Children treated as political pawns
Broadway Video/Universal Television
Now playing
01:15
Miley Cyrus tears up thanking Hillary Clinton
RBG on sexism and HRC_00010727.jpg
RBG on sexism and HRC_00010727.jpg
Now playing
01:50
RBG says Clinton was criticized worse than men

Story highlights

Clinton said the former first lady, who died on Sunday, "started a national conversation" on AIDS

St. Louis CNN —  

Hillary Clinton apologized on Friday for calling the late Nancy Reagan a “very effective, low-key” advocate on AIDS/HIV, saying she “misspoke” in an interview with MSNBC.

Clinton said the former first lady, who died on Sunday, “started a national conversation” on AIDS that “penetrated the public conscience and people began to say, ‘Hey, we have to do something about this, too,’” during an interview with the network at Reagan’s funeral.

But Nancy Reagan’s husband, President Ronald Reagan, didn’t deliver a major speech on the epidemic until 1987, six years after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first reported on the disease. Many in the gay community have criticized Reagan for not doing more to respond to the AIDS outbreak during his presidency.

Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign and a former Clinton White House aide, knocked the Clinton on Friday for incorrectly holding Reagan up as an activist.

He tweeted, “Nancy Reagan was, sadly, no hero in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

Clinton soon after tweeted an apology.

“While the Reagans were strong advocates for stem cell research and finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, I misspoke about their record on HIV and AIDS,” Clinton said in a statement. “For that, I’m sorry.”

Griffin’s shot at Clinton is noteworthy given the gay rights activist’s ties to the Democratic family. He campaigned with Clinton in Iowa in January.

In the MSNBC interview Clinton, unprompted, heralded Reagan’s activism.

“The other point to make, too, is it may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS back in the 1980s,” Clinton said. “And because of both President and Mrs. Reagan, in particular Mrs. Reagan, we started a national conversation, when before nobody would talk about it.”

Clinton added: “Nobody wanted to do anything about it. And, you know, that too is something that I really appreciate with her very effective low-key advocacy, but it penetrated the public conscience and people began to say, hey, we have to do something about this, too.”