Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Basket of Deplorables: Hillary Clinton regrets calling Donald Trump supporters 'deplorables'

She comes under fire for remarks while rival's campaign seeks to capitalise on major gaffe
The Straits Times, 12 Sep 2016

WASHINGTON • Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she regrets describing half of her Republican rival Donald Trump's supporters as a "basket of deplorables" in a speech, as the Trump campaign tried to capitalise on what it considered a major gaffe by the former secretary of state.

Mrs Clinton's remarks late last Friday unleashed a wave of derision and mockery on social media.

"Basket of Deplorables" became a trending hashtag on Twitter, with users venting their fury at her. There was even a mock account called "Hillary's Basket", with the handle @TheDeplorables, deriding the former first lady and senator.

With less than two months to go before election day, and the race still tight, Mrs Clinton was in damage limitation mode 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.

Mrs Clinton then listed a number of "deplorable" things about Mr Trump. "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.

"So I won't stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign," she said.

Mr Trump fired back by calling her comments "insulting" on Twitter, 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 wrote.

"For the first time in a long while, her true feelings came out, showing bigotry and hatred for millions of Americans," he added, while calling Mrs Clinton "unfit" to be president.

Mr Trump's running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, also lambasted Mrs Clinton in a speech at a gathering of conservative voters, and campaign officials instructed surrogates to highlight her remarks in their public appearances.

Mr Pence, at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, said she had disrespected voters, adding: "Hillary, they are not a basket of anything, they are Americans, and they deserve your respect."

Mr Pence's response was the most forceful effort by the Trump campaign to seize on Mrs Clinton's remark and try to ensure maximum damage was inflicted on her campaign. Her lead in national and battleground state polls has narrowed in recent weeks, giving fresh hope to Trump supporters.

Trump campaign officials, however, decided not to change plans to keep the Republican's surrogates off the Sunday morning news talk shows. The campaign is confident that controversy over Mrs Clinton's remark will not dissipate, the officials said, requesting anonymity.

Mrs Clinton said at a fund-raiser that Mr Trump had "lifted up" people that were "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic - you name it". She added that those people are "irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America".

She also told the crowd at the gala event that other Trump supporters felt let down by the government and the economy, and are "desperate for change".

Mrs Clinton reiterated that point on Saturday, saying many Trump supporters are "hard-working Americans" who feel marginalised.

"I'm determined to bring our country together and make our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top," she said.


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