Will Hillary Clinton's 'basket of deplorables' comment be a costly gaffe?

Hayley Hoefer

Before Hillary Clinton's health captured the media's attention Sunday, the Democratic nominee made headlines Friday night for her controversial statement that "half of Donald Trump's supporters" constitute "a basket of deplorables." Speaking at a New York fundraiser that was open to the press, Clinton told the crowd, "You know, 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, Islamophobic – you name it." She later conceded "regret" for referring to "half" of the Republican nominee's base. However, Trump is seeking to maintain the uproar over the comment, which he called a worse version of Mitt Romney's slight of "47 percent" of voters, and has already begun using it against Clinton in ads.

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Recognizing the anger over Clinton's statement, Hot Air's Ed Morrissey writes, "This sneering, condescending, and insulting stereotyping of millions of voters perfectly encapsulates the Clintonian quarter-century, especially with their above-the-law antics since leaving the White House. And that's why most candidates stick to insulting each other, and not voters." Morrissey expresses doubt that Clinton's gaffe will receive the same level of media focus as Romney's did in 2012 and thus encourages Trump to be deft about using "the biggest gift basket Team Hillary will provide Republicans in 2016."

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Greg Sargent at The Washington Post acknowledges that Clinton "overgeneralized" with her "half" categorization but argues that her criticism of Trump's style of voter outreach was deserved. "[T]he underlying argument here – that Trump is running a bigoted campaign that tries to prey on legitimate grievances and bigotry alike by scapegoating minority groups – is inarguable, and the reality it identifies is far worse than Clinton's broad-brush overreach was. If anything, 'deplorable' is too mild a word for it," says Sargent.

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Similarly, John Cassidy of The New Yorker classifies Clinton's "half" remark as a legitimate gaffe but thinks that it also fits into her strategy of winning over voters who are suspect of Trump's divisive rhetoric. He observes, "Instead of seeking to shift attention to other subjects, like Clinton's policy initiatives, her campaign appears keen to keep the focus on Trump's links to extremist and conspiratorial groups, even if that also helps keep the 'basket of deplorables' story in the news."

Brian Beutler, writing for New Republic, argues that Clinton, despite stirring controversy, sent an important message to "anti-Trump conservatives" that they must address "the extent of racism in society" in order defeat the businessman and take back their party from him.