Clinton regrets 'deplorable' comment

  • 11/09/2016
US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (Reuters)
US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (Reuters)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton regrets saying "half" of Republican rival Donald Trump's supporters belonged in a "basket of deplorables," but made no apologies for calling out "prejudice and paranoia" among Trump's campaign and supporters.

"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, on Saturday, the day after comments at a fundraiser in New York.

But "Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia," she said, adding: "I won't stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign."

Republicans and Trump supporters responded fiercely on social media to Clinton's remarks at the LGBT fundraiser and the episode threatened to distract from her efforts to paint Trump as unqualified for the presidency.

Clinton said Trump had given voice to hateful rhetoric through his behaviour as a candidate for the White House in the November 8 election.

"To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the 'basket of deplorables,'" Clinton said. "Unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up."

Some of those were irredeemable, she said, but they did not represent America.

The other basket of Trump's supporters constituted individuals desperate for change who felt let down by the government and the economy, Clinton added.

Trump's campaign pounced on Clinton's candid views.

"Hillary Clinton's low opinion of the people that support this campaign should be denounced in the strongest possible terms," Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana and Trump's running mate, said at the Values Voter Summit in Washington.

"So let me just say from the bottom of my heart: Hillary, they are not a basket of anything. They are Americans, and they deserve your respect."

Trump, a New York businessman who has never run for political office before, regularly says things that some consider insulting, racist or off-colour.

Clinton's comment could nevertheless end up being a boon to Trump.

"As long as Trump stays out of the way and doesn't overshadow Hillary's comment, her 'basket of deplorables' comment should dominate the media in the coming days and runs the risk of negatively defining her campaign," said Republican strategist Doug Heye.

Republican strategist Ana Navarro, who has been highly critical of Trump, said Clinton might have crossed an important line.

"When you are running for President, you are running to represent all Americans, even the ones you think are deplorable," said Navarro.