Associated Press Botches Its “Basket Of Deplorables” Reporting

The Associated Press falsely suggested that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had called all Donald Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables” before saying she regretted the comment and acknowledging that “many are hard-working Americans.” Clinton actually said that she regrets “saying ‘half’” of Trump’s supporters fell into that category while reiterating that Trump’s campaign is backed by white nationalists. Further, Clinton’s original statement made the point she believes that while some Trump supporters were deplorable and “irredeemable,” others “are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

After the wire service’s original tweet led to harsh criticism on Twitter, the AP deleted it and issued a correction.

During a September 9 event, Clinton made the following remarks as transcribed by a pool report:

I know there are only 60 days left to make our case — and don’t get complacent, don’t see the latest outrageous, offensive, inappropriate comment and think well he’s done this time. We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?

[Laughter/applause]

The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now how 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America. But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but 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. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroine, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

Her remarks are backed by polls finding that significant numbers of Trump supporters hold such deplorable views. Further, there have been numerous instances of racism and sexism at Trump rallies; Trump has successfully courted the racist white nationalist/”alt-right” movement, and Trump’s own campaign manager once referred to his supporters as “downright nasty.”

Clinton today issued a statement reading, “I regret saying ‘half’ -- that was wrong” and then reaffirming both that Trump is running a deplorable campaign and has “given a national platform to hateful views and voices” and that many of his supporters “are hard-working Americans who just don't feel like the economy or our political system are working for them.” Her statement:

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 national platform to hateful views and voices, including by retweeting fringe bigots with a few dozen followers and spreading their message to 11 million people. It's deplorable that he's attacked a federal judge for his “Mexican heritage,” bullied a Gold Star family because of their Muslim faith, and promoted the lie that our first black President is not a true American. So I won't stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign. I also meant what I said last night about empathy, and the very real challenges we face as a country where so many people have been left out and left behind. As I said, many of Trump's supporters are hard-working Americans who just don't feel like the economy or our political system are working for them. I'm determined to bring our country together and make our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top. Because we really are “stronger together.”

The AP incorrectly summarized the statement by tweeting, “BREAKING: Hillary Clinton says she regrets calling Trump supporters 'basket of deplorables'; says many are hard-working Americans.”

An AP wire story on the remarks with the timestamp 2:16 PM EDT began: “Hillary Clinton says she regrets describing Donald Trump supporters as a ‘basket of deplorables.’” Another version on the AP.org website with the timestamp 2:36 PM EDT included the “half” distinction. Neither versions at the time of their posting included the context that Clinton said yesterday that there are some Trump supporters who “are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

At 2:46, the AP issued a “correction” alert that “Corrects APNewsAlert to reflect that her comment referred to half of Trump’s supporters.” The AP wire story that lacked the “half” language was subsequently changed.

At 3:05, the AP tweeted: “AP deleted a tweet saying Clinton regrets calling Trump supporters `basket of deplorables.’ She referred to half. A new tweet is upcoming.” It then tweeted, “BREAKING: Clinton says she regrets calling `half' of Trump supporters `basket of deplorables.’”

The wire service’s botched Clinton tweet follows its recent decision to delete a widely criticized 2-week-old tweet about Clinton’s meetings as secretary of state that, according to a statement, “gave a distorted picture of the secretary’s meetings and was not backed up by the AP’s own reporting.”

Numerous journalists criticized the Associated Press on Twitter. Here is a sampling: