Clinton sorry for 'deplorable' jibe but insists she will call out racists
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Saturday said she regretted saying "half" of Republican rival Donald Trump's supporters belonged in a "basket of deplorables," but made no apologies for calling out "prejudice and paranoia" among Trump's campaign and supporters.
"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, the day after comments at a fundraiser in New York.
But "Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia," she said, adding: "I won't stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign."
Republicans and Trump supporters responded fiercely on social media to Clinton's remarks and the episode threatened to distract from her efforts to paint Trump as unqualified for the presidency.
But Trump yesterday sought to use Clinton's comments to make the same charge about her.
"How can she be president of our country when she has such contempt and disdain for so many great Americans?" a Trump statement asked.
"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," he added.
Clinton made her initial remarks about Trump supporters at a lavish LGBT fundraiser that featured performances from Barbra Streisand and Rufus Wainwright. Supporters paid from $1,200 to more than $250,000 to attend.
"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," she said. "And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up."
Comments about voters - especially at private fundraisers - have tripped up presidential hopefuls in the past. Weeks before the 2012 election, Republican Mitt Romney landed in hot water for saying that 47pc of the public would vote for President Barack Obama "no matter what" because they depended on government benefits and his job was "not to worry about those people".
During the 2008 Democratic primary, then-Senator Obama said that small-town voters "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations".
Those remarks were seized on by Clinton, his primary opponent, as evidence that he was disconnected from many Americans.
Meanwhile, Trump appears to have carved out a wider path to the White House as a number of states, including Florida and Ohio, are no longer considered likely wins for Clinton, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project, released yesterday. The project, which combines opinion polls with an analysis of voting patterns under different election scenarios, still indicates that Clinton would have the best chance of winning the presidency if the November 8 election were held today.
Yet Trump has caught up to her level of support in several states. Clinton now has an 83pc chance of winning the election by an average of 47 votes in the Electoral College, the body that ultimately selects the president.
In August, the States of the Nation estimated that Clinton had a 95pc chance of winning by an average of 108 electoral votes. Over the past few weeks, Clinton's lead in the national polls has slipped considerably.
Polls tend to narrow as election day nears, and the Clinton campaign has struggled to overcome controversy about how she handled classified information while serving as secretary of state.