Clinton expresses regret for saying 'half' of Trump supporters are 'deplorables'
Hillary Clinton expressed "regret" Saturday for comments in which she said "half" of Donald Trump's supporters are "deplorables," meaning people who are racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic.
"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 Democratic presidential nominee sparked an uproar late 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 empathize with them.
The Democratic nominee made similar comments in an interview Thursday with an Israeli television station. But when they were widely reported Friday night, 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 percent" 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's running mate, Mike Pence, forcefully condemned Clinton "in the strongest possible terms" Saturday 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 continued. "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 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."
Clinton made the comments before introducing Barbra Streisand at an LGBT fundraiser in downtown New York.
According to average ticket prices and attendance figures provided by the campaign, Clinton raised around $6 million at the fundraiser, at which some attendees paid $50,000.
In seizing upon the comments, Trump used the opportunity to do some fundraising as well.
"Now is the time to show Hillary the consequences of her words," Trump's campaign wrote in an appeal to supporters. "I'm asking you and the millions of hard-working, patriotic Americans whom she just insulted, to fight back with a contribution of $100, $65, $50, $35, $25, $15, or even $5 to elect Donald Trump to the White House."
In her statement Saturday, Clinton was emphatic in condemning what she said was Trump's racially insensitive campaign.
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 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 empathizing 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.'"
Around the same time Clinton issued her statement, Trump also made a case for unity.
"While Hillary said horrible things about my supporters, and while many of her supporters will never vote for me, I still respect them all!" Trump said on Twitter.
A senior Democrat close to the campaign told CNN it wants to have a conversation about what it sees as the racism in Trump's campaign, but could not have that part of the conversation until Clinton backed away from the "half" comment.
The Democrat added that Clinton's concession drew a contrast with Trump.
"She can admit when she is wrong -- Trump never does," the Democrat said.