Campaigning in coal country, Hillary Clinton said that she’s sorry for vowing earlier this year to put coal miners out of business.
During a roundtable discussion in West Virginia on Monday, the Democratic frontrunner was pressed by an unemployed coal worker over comments she made at a debate in March, when she said, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
Bo Copley, a West Virginian who recently lost his coal mining job, questioned how Clinton could made such a vow and then “come in here and tell us how you’re going to be our friend.”
Copley, a registered Republican, then pointed to dozens of demonstrators — some of them Donald Trump supporters — who had come to protest Clinton’s appearance in coal country.
Hillary Clinton speaks to unemployed coal worker Bo Copley and his wife during a campaign event in West Virginia on Monday. (Photo: Jim Young/Reuters)
“Those people out there don’t see you as a friend,” he said.
The former secretary of state insisted that she had misspoken.
“What I said was totally out of context from what I meant because I have been talking about helping coal country for a very long time,” Clinton said. “What I was saying is that the way things are going now, we will continue to lose jobs. That’s what I meant to say.”
She added: “I do feel a little bit sad and sorry that I gave folks the reason or the excuse to be so upset with me because that is not what I intended at all.”
At the March 13 Democratic forum in Columbus, Ohio, Clinton was asked to explain to “poor whites” in rural states why they should vote for her instead of a Republican like Trump.
“We have serious economic problems in many parts of our country,” she said at the town-hall style meeting. “Instead of dividing people the way Donald Trump does, let’s reunite around policies that will bring jobs and opportunities to all these underserved poor communities. So for example, I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country, because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
Supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gather outside a Clinton campaign event in West Virginia on Monday. (Photo: Jim Young/Reuters)
Clinton continued: “We’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories. Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.”
On Monday, Clinton admitted that those remarks will be “pretty difficult” for her to overcome in West Virginia’s upcoming Democratic primary.
A poll of West Virginia voters conducted in February — weeks before Clinton’s coal industry comments — showed Clinton trailing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by 28 points. The same poll showed Trump with a 20-point lead over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the Mountain State.