All of the times Hillary Clinton apologizes and admits being wrong in her book

Dear America, I am sorry.
Dear America, I am sorry.
Image: Reuters/Andrew Kelly
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Hillary Clinton is the first and only woman to have given a big US presidential concession speech—and she is the first and only candidate to say “I’m sorry.”

Trust a woman to do that. Research finds that women apologize more than men, likely because people are faster to judge women for their behavior. Clinton has since acknowledged time and again her own responsibility for losing the 2016 US presidential election. Months later, apologies continue to abound in her new book about the campaign, What Happened.

Nevertheless, many appear deaf to her words of acknowledgement: From political analysts to president Trump himself, the rumor has taken hold that Hillary Clinton blames everyone but herself. 

With her book launch, that false narrative has taken center stage, propelled by critics who seem outraged that Clinton thinks her electoral college defeat can be explained by factors in addition to herself. Clinton “seeks to exonerate herself,” her book is a “long list of who Hillary Clinton blames,” and she is wasting an opportunity to go away and, therefore, be missed, they claim.

Perhaps they have not read the book. Hillary Clinton blames herself at least 35 times in What Happened. She apologizes for her mistakes, she apologizes for not apologizing, she even reports past apologies for mistakes she’d made before becoming the Democratic party candidate.

To clear up any doubt, we’ve listed each of those apologies below—perhaps reading them in sequence will quench the thirst for female contrition.

  • When they said they had no further questions and thanked me, I apologized to them all, saying that I was sorry they’d had to spend so much time on this matter.
  • I said how sorry I was and that I understood why people were angry.
  • I then called President Obama. “I’m sorry for letting you down,” I told him.
  • I regret handing Trump a political gift with my “deplorables” comments. […] I am sorry about that.
  • I’ve made mistakes, been defensive about them, stubbornly resisted apologizing.
  • I made a mistake with my emails. I apologized, I explained, I explained, and apologized some more.
  • I felt absolutely sick about the whole thing. I clarified and apologized and pointed to my detailed plan to invest in coal communities. But the damage was done.
  • A few weeks after my “gaffe” I went to Appalachia to apologize directly to people I had offended.
  • I blamed myself. My worst fears about my limitations as a candidate had come true. […] I had been unable to connect with the deep anger so many Americans felt.
  • It’s fair to say there was a fundamental mismatch between how I approach politics and what a lot of the country wanted to hear in 2016.
  • It seems as if many Trump voters were actually voting against me more than they were voting for him.
  • I go back over my shortcomings and the mistakes we made. I take responsibility for all of them. You can blame the data, blame the message, blame anything you want—but I was the candidate. It was my campaign. Those were my decisions.
  • “Could the campaign have been better?” Christiane Amanpour asked me. “Where was your message? Do you take any personal responsibility?” “I take absolute personal responsibility,” I replied.
  • I was the candidate, I was the person on the ballot.
  • Many in the political media don’t want to hear about how these things tipped the election in the final days. They say their beef is that I am not taking responsibility for my mistakes—but I have, and I do again throughout this book.
  • None of the factors I discussed here lessen the responsibility I feel or the aching sense that I let everyone down.
  • I have tried to learn from my own mistakes. There are plenty, as you’ll see in this book, and they are mine and mine alone.
  • Every day that I was candidate for President, I knew that millions of people were counting on me, and I couldn’t bear the idea of letting them down. But I did. I couldn’t get the job done, and I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life.
  • At every step, I felt that I had let everyone down.
  • I felt like I had been fighting for her and millions like her my entire career. And I had let them down.
  • I run through the tape over and over, identifying every mistake—especially those made by me.
  • That was a mistake […] I shouldn’t have assumed it would be OK for me to do it. Especially after the financial crisis of 2008-2009 I should have realized it would be bad “optics” and stayed away from it. I didn’t. That’s on me.
  • This is one of the mistakes I made you’ll read about in this book. I have tried to give an honest accounting of when I got it wrong, where I fell short, and what I wish I could go back and do differently. […] My mistakes burn me up inside.
  • It was a mistake to have a personal account. I would certainly not do it again. I make no excuse for it.
  • Another example where I remained polite, albeit exasperated, and played the political game as it used to be, not as it had become. That was a mistake.
  • During the campaign, I tried endlessly to explain that I’d acted in good faith. I tried to apologize […] No matter what, I never found the right words. So let me try again: It was a dumb mistake.
  • Given my inability to explain this mess, I decided to let other voices tell the story this time.
  • I listened carefully, determined that if I did jump in the race, I would have to avoid the mistakes that had dogged me the last time.
  • In the end, we decided it would be better to just let it go and try to move on. Looking back, that was a mistake.
  • Sometimes it just comes out wrong. It wasn’t the first time that happened during the 2016 election, and it wouldn’t be the last. But it is the one I regret the most.
  • Or maybe I was the wrong messenger.
  • “Well, Dad, what if I lose an election I should have won and let an unqualified bully become President of the United States?”
  • I should have seen that coming.
  • He told me he had followed his doctor’s orders and stayed home for a week. Looking back, I should have done the same.
  • Now I wish I had pushed back hard.
  • Right there and then, I should have known there would never be some magical words to prove how silly it was and make it go away.
  • Slowly working through why I lost, what could I have done better.
  • I wish more than anything that I could have done a better job speaking to their fears and frustration. […] I wish I could have found the words or emotional connection.