During a private fundraising dinner in New York on Friday, Hillary Clinton said that you could "put half" of Trump's supporters into what she calls a "basket of deplorables"—people who are sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, racist, or homophobic—according to a report from Reuters.
She argued that through his combative rhetoric, Trump has enabled those people's voices to be amplified.
"To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the 'basket of deplorables.' [...] Unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up," Clinton said.
The other half of his supporters, Clinton said, "don’t buy everything [Trump] says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with, as well."
Her comments are bolstered by polls in recent months that have shown Trump supporters more likely to view black voters negatively. Trump supporters are "more likely to describe African Americans as 'criminal,' 'unintelligent,' 'lazy' and 'violent' than voters who backed some Republican rivals in the primaries or who support Democratic contender Hillary Clinton," the Reuters poll found.
Backlash from the Trump campaign—and even among some Democratic strategists—was swift. Trump called the comments "so insulting." Others have drawn a comparison between Clinton's comments and those made by Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election, when footage leaked of the candidate saying that 47 percent of Americans live off of government handouts and don't pay any taxes.
But many reporters and pundits came to Clinton's defense, arguing that the hateful rhetoric Trump uses in his campaign speeches are undeniable—and that ignoring that point enables Trump's inflammatory speech.
Nick Merrill, Clinton's traveling press secretary, defended her comments on Twitter Friday.
For her part, Clinton released a statement about the comments via Twitter on Saturday afternoon. "Last night I was 'grossly generalistic,' and that's never a good idea," she said in the statement. "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."
"I won't stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign," the tweet read.
Likewise, Trump issued a statemment of his own, calling out Clinton's comment and stating she would be unfit to run for president.