Hillary Clinton today expressed “regret” for calling half of Donald Trump’s supporters “deplorable” people but promised to keep fighting “bigotry and racist rhetoric” by her Republican rival as the presidential campaign got shriller ahead of the D-day.
“Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’ — that was wrong,” Clinton said in a statement in which she also vowed to call out “bigotry” in Trump’s campaign.
The 68-year-old Democratic presidential nominee had sparked an uproar on Friday when she described Trump’s supporters at a fundraiser.
“To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables,” Clinton said. “Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.”
She added, “And unfortunately, there are people like that and he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people, now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets offensive, hateful, mean- spirited rhetoric.”
Clinton then said some of these people were “irredeemable” and “not America.”
She described the rest of his supporters as people who are looking for change in any form because of economic anxiety and urged her supporters to empathise with them.
In her statement, Clinton was emphatic in condemning what she said was Trump’s racially insensitive campaign ahead of the November 8 presidential poll.
She listed a series of controversial moments from Trump’s campaign, including his fight with a Muslim Gold Star family, criticism of a federal US judge of Mexican heritage and his insinuation that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the US.
“I won’t stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign,” Clinton said.
She also noted her comments about empathising with other Trump supporters.
“As I said, many of Trump’s supporters are hard-working Americans who just don’t feel like the economy or our political system are working for them,” Clinton said. “I’m determined to bring our country together and make our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top. Because we really are ‘stronger together.'”
Clinton had made similar comments against Trump’s supporters in an interview on Thursday with an Israeli television station. But when they were widely reported, Trump and Republicans quickly pounced on the remarks, which drew comparisons to President Barack Obama’s comments about clinging to “guns and religion” at a 2008 campaign fundraiser and Mitt Romney’s “47 per cent” remark in 2012.
“Isn’t it disgraceful that Hillary Clinton makes the worst mistake of the political season and instead of owning up to this grotesque attack on American voters, she tries to turn it around with a pathetic rehash of the words and insults used in her failing campaign?” Trump said in a statement.
“For the first time in a long while, her true feelings came out, showing bigotry and hatred for millions of Americans,” Trump said.
Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, forcefully condemned Clinton “in the strongest possible terms” yesterday at the Values Voter Summit in Washington.
“The truth of the matter is that the men and women who support Donald Trump’s campaign are hard-working Americans, farmers, coal miners, teachers, veterans, members of our law enforcement community, members of every class of this country, who know that we can make America great again,” Pence said.
“Let me just say, from the bottom of my heart, Hillary, they are not a basket of anything,” Pence said. “They are Americans and they deserve your respect.”
Clinton had earlier divided Trump’s supporters into “two big baskets,” what she called “the deplorables,” in an interview with Channel 2 News Israel that aired on Thursday.
“If I were to be grossly generalistic, I would say you can take Trump supporters and put them in two big baskets,” Clinton said. “There are what I call the deplorables — the racists, you know, the haters, and the people who are drawn because they think somehow he’s going to restore an America that no longer exists.
So just eliminate them from your thinking, because we’ve always had an annoying prejudicial element within our politics.”