AP – Republican Donald Trump is condemning Hillary Clinton's remark that half of his supporters could be put in a "basket of deplorables" and dismissing her admission she was wrong, saying the Democrat had committed "the worst mistake of the political season."
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"For the first time in a long while, her true feelings came out, showing bigotry and hatred for millions of Americans," Trump said Saturday in a statement rejecting her effort to walk back her remarks. "How can she be president of our country when she has such contempt and disdain for so many great Americans?"
Trump's statement came after Clinton had backed off her disdainful description of half of his supporters. In her initial remarks Friday night at a private fundraiser in New York City, she said: "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."
Her remarks drew enough controversy that by midday Saturday she tried to refocus her criticism squarely on Trump and continued to stress that she thought many aspects of his campaign were deplorable.
"Last night I was 'grossly generalistic' and that's never a good idea. I regret saying 'half' – that was wrong." She added: "He 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."
In his response, Trump said: "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?"
Clinton's initial remark about a "basket of deplorables" recalled comments about voters – also at private fundraisers – that have tripped up past presidential nominees.
Weeks before the 2012 election, Republican Mitt Romney landed in hot water for saying that 47 percent of the public would vote for President Barack Obama because they depended on government benefits and his job was "not to worry about those people."
During the 2008 Democratic primary, then-Sen. Obama was criticized for saying 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."
At the New York restaurant Friday night, Clinton bemoaned the people she described as "deplorables," saying that "unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people – now how 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks – they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America."
Clinton then pivoted and tried to characterize the other half of Trump's supporters, putting them in "that other basket" and saying they need empathy. She described them as "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."
On Sunday the candidates were expected to put their campaigns on pause as they marked the 15th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks by attending the official commemoration in New York at the World Trade Center site.