Even the most guarded speakers can wake up regretting something they said the night before. This weekend’s word-choice hangover goes to Hillary Clinton, who on Friday managed to insult a solid 50% of Donald Trump’s supporters.
“To just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables,” the presidential nominee said at a Democratic fundraiser in New York. “Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”
Supporters applauded Clinton’s remarks, but they quickly earned her a hailstorm of criticism from the right. The hashtag #BasketofDeplorables became a forum for critics who say Clinton’s sweeping generalization insulted many working-class Americans.
On Saturday, Clinton walked back the comment. “Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea,” she said in a statement. “I regret saying “half’—that was wrong.”
So if not half…maybe a third? She didn’t say. But Clinton did promise to continue calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in the heated US presidential race. “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,” she said, “and that David Duke and other white supremacists see him as a champion of their values.”
Trump was quick to pounce on his opponent’s PR gaffe over the weekend. “Now is the time to show Hillary the consequences of her words,” he wrote to supporters. “I’m asking you and the millions of hard-working, patriotic Americans whom she just insulted, to fight back with a contribution of $100, $65, $50, $35, $25, $15, or even $5 to elect Donald Trump to the White House.”
Clinton’s frank assessment of Trump supporters recalls a similar comment from 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who characterized 47% of Barack Obama’s supporters as people who “believe that they are victims” and “people who pay no income tax.” That blunder alienated voters and ultimately lost Romney the election.