Hillary Clinton on Saturday said she regretted comments made to donors the previous evening in which she outlined what she sees as the two types of Trump supporters.
First, there are those in the "basket of deplorables" — who include racists, xenophobes, and homophobes, and make up about "half" of Trump's supporters, Clinton said. She called this group "irredeemable."
Second, there are the people who "don't buy everything he says," but want desperately to see change. She said this group was worthy of empathy.
In recent weeks, the topic of racism has animated some of Clinton's messaging, after she gave a high-profile speech about Trump's history on race and the rise of the alt-right, a white nationalist movement that has been energized by Trump's rise. Generally, though, Clinton has avoided characterizing Trump himself as racist, instead choosing to label her opponent's statements as racist.
Her full remarks:
"I know there are only 60 days left to make our case — and don't get complacent, don't see the latest outrageous, offensive, inappropriate comment and think well he's done this time. We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. 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 their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.
But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas, as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they're just desperate for change. It doesn't really even matter where it comes from. They don't buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won't wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they're in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with, as well.
The remarks came at an LGBT-focused fundraiser in New York City that included appearances by Laverne Cox and Barbra Streisand.
On Saturday morning, Trump responded on Twitter, describing the remarks as "insulting."
His running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, also denounced the comments during a speech at the Value Voters summit in Washington, DC.
"Hillary Clinton's low opinion of the people who support this campaign should be denounced in the strongest possible terms. The truth of the matter is the men and women who support Donald Trump's campaign are hardworking Americans," Pence said.
"Hillary, they are not a basket of anything. They are Americans and they deserve your respect," he said to cheers from the conservative audience.
Pence compared the remarks to 2008 comments by then Sen. Barack Obama who said some conservative voters "cling to guns or religion."
"No one with that low opinion of the American people should ever be elected president of the United States of America," he said.
On Saturday, Clinton released a statement in which she said she regretted her phrasing:
Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that's never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’ — that was wrong. But let's be clear, what's really ‘deplorable’ is that Donald Trump hired a major advocate for the so-called ‘alt-right’ movement to run his campaign and that David Duke and other white supremacists see him as a champion of their values. 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. 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. So I won't stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign. I also meant what I said last night about empathy, and the very real challenges we face as a country where so many people have been left out and left behind. 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. 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.’
Trump then released a statement of his own, calling Clinton's comments "the worst mistake of the political season:
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? For the first time in a long while, her true feelings came out, showing bigotry and hatred for millions of Americans. How can she be President of our country when she has such contempt and disdain for so many great Americans? Hillary Clinton should be ashamed of herself, and this proves beyond a doubt that she is unfit and incapable to serve as President of the United States. I will be President for all of the people, and together we will Make America Great Again.
Katherine Miller is the political editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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