By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called "fake news" a danger that must be addressed quickly, in a rare public appearance on Thursday, a month after she lost the presidential election in a campaign marked by a flood of such propaganda.
"We must stand up for our democracy," Clinton said during a tribute to retiring Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, referring to what she called "the epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the past year."
Clinton urged action from both the private and public sectors to combat the false reports.
"It's now clear that so-called 'fake news' can have real-world consequences. This isn't about politics or partisanship. Lives are at risk. Lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days, to do their jobs, contribute to their communities," she said.
Clinton herself has been a target of fake news, with internet postings claiming that a pizza restaurant in Washington was fronting a child sex ring run by Clinton.
On Sunday, a North Carolina man wielding an assault rifle fired a gun inside the restaurant, located in northwest Washington just a few miles from Thursday's ceremony, according to police, who said the suspect told them he had come to "investigate" a fake news report. [nL1N1E0121]
Clinton's appearance at the Thursday event, packed with mostly Democratic elected officials including Vice President Joe Biden, was greeted with a standing ovation and raucous applause.
Clinton, also a former senator who served with Reid, made a wry reference to the relatively low profile she has kept since Republican Donald Trump won the Nov. 8 presidential election, referring to "a few weeks of taking selfies in the woods."
She indirectly acknowledged her defeat as she began her tribute to Reid: "This is not exactly the speech at the Capitol I hoped to be making after the election."
The new U.S. president delivers an inaugural address on Jan. 20, standing on a large platform erected every four years on the west front of the Capitol building.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Leslie Adler)