The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Kaine: Clinton’s ‘deplorables’ characterization doesn’t merit an apology

Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine campaigning earlier this week in Cleveland. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND — Hillary Clinton’s assertion that half of Donald Trump’s supporters fit into a “basket of deplorables” is not something for which she needs to apologize, her Democratic running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), said Saturday in an interview.

“She said, 'Look, I’m generalizing here, but a lot of his support is coming from this odd place, that he’s given a platform to the alt-right and white nationalists,’” Kaine said in an interview with The Washington Post. “But then she went on to say, ‘Look, there’s also a number of his supporters that have economic anxieties, and we’ve got to speak to those.’”

Clinton: Half of Trump’s supporters fit in ‘basket of deplorables’

Clinton’s comments Friday night at a fundraiser prompted swift denunciations from Republicans, and Trump’s campaign manager said the Democratic nominee should apologize. In her remarks, Clinton suggested that a large segment of Trump’s supporters were not persuadable because Trump appeals to and amplifies their racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic viewpoints.

"To just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the 'basket of deplorables,'" Hillary Clinton said. (Video: Video: The Washington Post / Photo: AP)

Kaine said he didn’t think Clinton’s comments will hurt his ticket’s efforts to court Trump supporters who are willing to listen to their message “if it’s reported fairly that she kind of talked about both halves.”

“There are supporters we’re not going to get,” Kaine acknowledged.

He noted Saturday that “I was just seeing this morning there’s some press event in D.C. today by a white nationalist group that’s talking about how they’ve received a higher profile because of the Trump campaign. We’ve seen (former Ku Klux Klan leader) David Duke do robo-calls encouraging people to vote for Donald Trump last week. So there is an odd way in which [Trump’s] campaign has elevated the profile of some of these groups that are very, I think, dangerous.”

Kaine said he doesn’t think the Democratic tickets needs to “chase after” voters aligned with those kind of groups.

“But Hillary’s comments in full did make clear there are a lot of Trump supporters who have concerns about the economy and other issues that we will definitely need to be responsive to if we get the opportunity to govern,” Kaine said.

On Saturday afternoon, Clinton issued a statement saying that she regretted using the word “half” in her Friday remarks about Trump's supporters. “That was wrong,” Clinton said.