U.S. Elections 2016

Clinton calls Trump's supporters 'basket of deplorables'

Democratic candidate's remark provokes ire of Republicans, who say it's insulting to voters

Supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump cheer at a campaign rally in Pensacola, Florida, US on Sept 9, 2016.
Supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump cheer at a campaign rally in Pensacola, Florida, US on Sept 9, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Mrs Hillary Clinton said some of Mr Donald Trump's supporters could be classified as a "basket of deplorables", language that inflamed his Republican allies who felt her remark was demeaning to voters.

A group of people backing the Republican nominee is "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic - you name it", Mrs Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, said at a campaign fund-raiser on Friday at Cipriani Wall Street, an upscale Italian restaurant in New York.

Mrs Clinton's fund-raisers have typically been closed to the press but a pool of journalists was permitted to hear her remarks.

"Just when Hillary Clinton said she was going to start running a positive campaign, she ripped off her mask and revealed her true contempt for everyday Americans," Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement.

Republican pollster Frank Luntz described Mrs Clinton's comments as her "47 per cent moment", a reference to when Republican candidate Mitt Romney said during a private fund-raiser in the 2012 campaign that "47 per cent" of voters would choose to return Barack Obama to the White House because they are dependent upon the government. These people "pay no income tax", he said. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility" for their lives.


Mr Luntz tweeted after Mrs Clinton's comments swept through social media: "Hillary Clinton just insulted millions of hard-working Americans simply because they don't want to vote for her."

Mrs Clinton said most Trump supporters are people who feel maligned by the political system.

"The rest of his supporters, though, 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," she said.

Those people, Mrs Clinton said at the event, could be open to persuasion. "If you know anybody who's even thinking about voting for Trump, stage an intervention," she told the crowd.

The Clinton campaign later sought to explain her "basket of deplorables" remark, saying she was referring to people who actively back him, such as donors, endorsers and people at his rallies, not everyone who plans to vote for Mr Trump. People who align themselves with the white nationalist "alt-right" movement "appear to make up half his crowd when you observe the tone of his events", spokesman Nick Merrill tweeted.

Singer Barbra Streisand headlined the entertainment, riffing with a parody of Send In The Clowns by composer Stephen Sondheim that poked fun at Mr Trump. "Is he that rich? Maybe he's poor? 'Til he reveals his returns, who can be sure?" the 74-year-old crooned.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 11, 2016, with the headline 'Clinton calls Trump's supporters 'basket of deplorables''. Subscribe