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Clinton expresses regret for remark about some Trump supporters

Hillary Clinton spoke at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday.
Hillary Clinton spoke at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday.(Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton said Saturday that she regretted describing “half” of Republican Donald Trump’s supporters as “a basket of deplorables” in remarks at a fundraiser.

“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. She then lambasted Trump for hiring a leader of the so-called “alt-right” movement to run his campaign, and offered a list of Trump’s offensive remarks about Latinos and African Americans.

“I won’t stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign,” she said.

The statement was aimed at shutting down the blowback from the Trump campaign and Republicans and preserving Clinton’s appeal to moderate Republicans and independents. It came hours after she made the remarks that hearkened back to comments Barack Obama made in 2008 about people who cling to guns and religion and that Republican Mitt Romney made in 2012 about the 47 percent of Americans who were dependent on the government and would never vote for him.

Trump said Clinton’s statement was “disgraceful” in an e-mail to Bloomberg News from his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway.

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“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.

Clinton told an audience of gay-rights supporters at a fundraiser Friday night in New York City: “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, Islamaphobic -- you name it.”

The comment drew laughs from her audience, and she later said that other Trump supporters 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.”

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Some Clinton supporters said there was truth in her remarks.

“I don’t know what the exact percentage is, but there’s no doubt Donald Trump is drawing out the worst impulses of his supporters ranging from racism to the outrageous chants of ‘lock her up,’” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist. “There’s an awful lot of hate involved when it comes to his political rallies.”

Manley said, though, that Clinton was right to walk back her comments.

Clinton’s campaign found itself explaining the remark after her speech, while Trump’s campaign attempted to capitalize on what it considered a major gaffe. Trump rebuked Clinton on Twitter, Conway called for Clinton to apologize, and his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, chastised her in a speech on Saturday.

“Hillary, they are not a basket of anything. They are Americans and they deserve your respect,” Pence said, drawing cheers from the crowd at the annual Value Voters Summit in Washington.