Hillary Clinton’s dealing with some weekend fallout after a Friday night rally featured a brash statement from the Democratic nominee. Clinton described half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.” She admitted being “grossly generalistic” while doing so, but she was addressing the Alt-Right movement, which she described as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.” This is a group that Clinton has criticized Trump for fueling and giving a megaphone to what’s essentially a fringe movement.
Certainly, Clinton used a bit of hyperbole by using the word “half.” Perhaps a precisely-cut half of Trump supporters aren’t like this, and it’s probably less, not more, than half. But we just don’t know. No mainstream poll has asked Trump voters, “Do you belong to the Alt-Right?” What matters is that these Alt-Right supporters do exist, and they’re particularly vocal, so it probably seems like there are more of them than are actually present. Whatever the case, people grew angry even though Clinton took the time to describe the other “basket” of Trump’s supporters as people who are yearning for change. Here’s that portion of Clinton’s speech transcript:
“That other basket of people are 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. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different.”
Clinton expressed the need to empathize with this “other basket,” but context easily drifts away in our soundbite world. After plenty of backlash, Clinton issued a statement that expresses regret for using the word “half.” This is a carefully worded morsel:
“Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’ — that was wrong. But 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 and that David Duke and other white supremacists see him as a champion of their values. It’s deplorable that Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia and given a platform to hateful views and voices, including by retweeting fringe bigots with a few dozen followers and spreading their message to 11 million people.”
Naturally, the headlines for this expression of regret will likely be seen as Clinton completely backing down from the “deplorables” assessment. But her sentiment still stands, and she only regrets generalizing with the word “half.” Now, the question remains … how long will it be before people with a few dozen Twitter followers take offense at Clinton’s statement? It could happen.