WASHINGTON, D.C.: Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said Saturday (Sunday in Manila) she regretted calling half of Donald Trump’s supporters “deplorable” — a remark the billionaire Republican candidate slammed as her “worst mistake of the political season.”
The former secretary of State came under fire after telling a New York fundraiser on Friday night: “To be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.”|
“The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”
Speaking to gay rights supporters at the “LGBT for Hillary” gala, she added that those people are “irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”
“Basket of Deplorables” quickly became a trending hashtag on Twitter, with users venting their fury at Clinton.
There was even a mock account called “Hillary’s Basket,” with the handle @TheDeplorables, deriding the former first lady and US senator.
With less than two months to go before Election Day, and the race still tight, Clinton walked back her remark on Saturday.
“Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’ — that was wrong,” she said in a statement released by her campaign.
But she went on to bash Trump, listing a number of “deplorable” things about her opponent.
“It’s deplorable that Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia and given a national platform to hateful views and voices, including by retweeting fringe bigots with a few dozen followers and spreading their message to 11 million people,” she said.
“It’s deplorable that he’s attacked a federal judge for his ‘Mexican heritage,’ bullied a Gold Star family because of their Muslim faith, and promoted the lie that our first black president is not a true American,” she said.
“So I won’t stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign.”
Trump, 70, fired back, first calling her comments “INSULTING” on Twitter and then issuing an angry statement.
“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?” he said.
“For the first time in a long while, her true feelings came out, showing bigotry and hatred for millions of Americans,” he added in a statement, calling Clinton “unfit” to be president.
He later compared Clinton’s statement to Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign gaffe, when he said that 47 percent of the people would vote for Barack Obama’s re-election because they are “dependent upon government,” and “believe that they are victims.”
“Hillary Clinton just had her 47% moment,” Trump tweeted. “What a terrible thing she said about so many great Americans!”
‘Not a basket of anything’
Clinton, 68, had also told the crowd at the fundraiser that other Trump supporters are people who feel let down by the government and the economy, and are “desperate for change.”
She reiterated that point in her statement Saturday, saying many of Trump’s supporters are “hard-working Americans” who feel marginalized.
“I’m determined to bring our country together and make our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top,” she said.
But Trump’s vice presidential running mate Mike Pence said she had disrespected voters.
“Hillary, they are not a basket of anything, they are Americans, and they deserve your respect,” Pence said in an address to the Values Voters Summit in Washington.
And Trump’s son Eric posted a photo of a packed sports arena.
“Look at the #BasketOfDeplorables in Pensacola Florida last night! What a horrible statement. #CrookedHillary,” he tweeted, using one of his father’s favorite insults for describing the Democrat.
During his speech Friday night in Pensacola, Trump strayed from prepared remarks to suggest that Clinton is so immune from prosecution she could get away with murder.
“She could walk into this arena right now and shoot somebody with 20,000 people watching, right smack in the middle of the heart and she wouldn’t be prosecuted,” he declared.
Clinton has been under continued scrutiny over her use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.
An FBI investigation found that she sent unsecured emails with classified material through the server, but ultimately recommended that she not be prosecuted.
Trump’s remark was reminiscent of a comment he made in January, when he said he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” but still not lose any support.