Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump came out swinging at Hillary Clinton on Monday, saying she had “hatred in her heart” and feasting on her comment that half of his supporters are “a basket of deplorables.”
“Hillary Clinton has been running a hate-filled, negative campaign with no policy, no solutions and no new ideas,” he told around 7,000 supporters in Asheville. “She spoke with hatred in her heart for these working-class Americans.
“While she calls you deplorable, I call you hard-working American patriots who want a better future for our country.”
Trump’s appearance at the U.S. Cellular Center was his second visit to the battleground state in less than a week. Last Tuesday, he appeared in Greenville, where he promised to bring jobs back to North Carolina.
Never miss a local story.
Trump’s supporters braved a gauntlet of dozens of protesters, including one dressed like a clown and others holding signs with slogans such as “The only thing we have to fear is Trump himself.”
A handful of protesters got inside and were later escorted out by security. A video showed one Trump supporter slapping protesters as they were led away.
In his remarks, Trump hit on familiar themes: a “rigged system,” trade and tax reform, school choice, defeating Islamic terrorism, immigration and the “totally dishonest” news media. Once again, he promised to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, prompting chants of “Build the wall! Build the wall!”
Trump responded to criticism that his policy proposals lack key details, saying his campaign has “released policy after policy, solution after solution.” He said changes would happen from the time he’s sworn in.
“On the first day, I’m going to terminate the unconstitutional executive orders signed by Obama, then order a review of every regulation issued in the past eight years. Job-killing regulations will be canceled. Millions of new jobs will come pouring in.”
As he first did at a recent rally in Charlotte, he appealed for African-American votes, depicting inner-city crime and failing schools as the legacy of decades of Democratic control. “What do you have to lose?” he said to the overwhelmingly white audience. “It can’t get any worse.... We’re going to get people working, and we’re going to love it.”
But Trump repeatedly returned to a remark Clinton made at a Friday fundraiser.
“You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables,’” she said. “The racists, sexists, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.”
Clinton later apologized, saying she had been “grossly generalistic.” But it became the focus of a new campaign theme for Trump: Clinton is divisive, while Trump is the only candidate representing “all Americans.”
Earlier, Democratic Sen. Terry Van Duyn and Rep. Susan Fisher joined Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer in criticizing Trump at a news conference. Asked about the “deplorables” comment, Van Duyn said Clinton probably “wishes she had chosen her words better” but said Trump, “even at his core … is a very offensive character.”
Fisher called Clinton’s remark a soundbite that “will come and go,” adding, “How many soundbites have we gotten from the Trump campaign?”
But Trump and his supporters weren’t about to let the matter go. One man wore a laundry basket on his head. Another held a sign saying, “Deplorable lives matter.”
“Never in history has a major-party presidential candidate so viciously demonized the American voter,” Trump said. “She was attacking millions of moms and dads who love their children and want a better future for all Americans.”
Trump himself has been criticized for demeaning groups of people, including Muslims and Latinos.
Nevertheless, his campaign began airing a new ad in North Carolina and three other battleground states Monday that blasts Clinton for her remark.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani joined the criticism when he introduced Trump. “We’ve always known why we don’t like her,” he said of Clinton. “Now she told us why she doesn’t like us.”
Trump called nearly a dozen supporters on stage. They took turns mocking Clinton’s depiction. “We’re going to make America great again,” one woman said. “And Hillary needs to take a nap.”
In a speech to the National Guard Association conference in Baltimore earlier Monday, Trump denounced the comment and suggested that it makes Clinton unfit for the presidency.
Clinton’s comments from Friday echoed from the dais and the crowd.
“Lord, when I look around this great crowd tonight I don’t see a lot of deplorable people,” said the minister giving the invocation. Many Trump supporters found Clinton’s comments insulting.
“I didn’t appreciate it,” said David Ruff, a floor installer from Fletcher. “Anybody who works hard for a living, that’s a put-down.”
Steven Mills of Old Fort said the comments underscored that Clinton is “out of touch with the working class.” “I don’t really feel offended by it; she’s out of touch with reality.”
Tonia Estes of Hendersonville called the crowd “a pretty high-class bunch of deplorables.”
Trump faces a tight race for votes in a battleground state. Recent polls averaged by RealClear Politics give Clinton a lead over Trump in North Carolina of less than 1 percentage point.
Clinton hosted a campaign rally Thursday in Charlotte at Johnson C. Smith University. It was Clinton’s third trip to Charlotte in about two months.
Trump campaign office
Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, is scheduled to be in Charlotte Wednesday to help open two Republican Victory Offices.
At 11 a.m. she’ll be at 4523 Park Road. And at 3:30 p.m. she’ll be at 15905 Brookway Drive in Huntersville