Half of Trump supporters 'deplorables' - Clinton

Hillary Clinton (Reuters)
Hillary Clinton (Reuters)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says half the supporters of Republican rival Donald Trump belong in a "basket of deplorables" of people who are racist, homophobic, sexist, xenophobic, or Islamophobic.

Speaking at a fundraiser on Friday night in New York, Clinton said Trump had given voice to hateful rhetoric through his behaviour as a candidate for the White House.

"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.

"They don't buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different," Clinton said. "Those are people we have to understand and empathise with, as well."

Clinton's comments drew a rebuke from Trump's would-be vice-president Mike Pence, who said their supporters weren't "a basket of anything".

It was also slammed by his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who said on Twitter that Clinton had insulted millions of Americans.

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

Also on Friday night, he told supporters in Pensacola, Florida, that Clinton could shoot someone and not be prosecuted.

The hashtag #BasketOfDeplorables was trending on Saturday morning as many Twitter users either condemned or supported Clinton's remarks.

Trump himself tweeted: "Wow, Hillary Clinton was SO INSULTING to my supporters, millions of amazing, hard-working people. I think it will cost her at the Polls!"

Clinton's comment could help Trump, said Republican strategist Doug Heye.

"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," Heye said.

But many voters have already decided anyway, said Jamal Simmons, a Democratic consultant.

"We're moving to the part of the election process where there's a lot less persuasion of new voters and more persuasion of the people who like you to turn out and work to elect you," he added.