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Democratic presidential contender HIllary Clinton was forced on Saturday to walk back her contention that half of Donald Trump's supporters were part of a "basket of deplorables", as the remark was met with a barrage of criticism that it insulted average American voters.
At a New York fundraiser on Friday, the former Secretary of State cautioned her supporters not to take a victory for granted, with recent polls showing the presidential race tightening. She then categorized Trump's base as divided between people yearning for change, but disparaged the other half as "a basket of deplorables."
In a campaign statement on Saturday, the former Secretary of State apologized in part for the crack, saying that she was "wrong" to suggest half of Trump's backers were deplorable. However, she added that she would continue to speak out against what she said was intolerance on the campaign trail.
The controversy came days after the two contenders traded barbs over their respective credentials to serve as commander in chief, after an NBC News forum on the subject failed to produce a clear winner.
Meanwhile, the real estate mogul and his supporters pounced on Clinton's remark, with even some of his most implacable GOP critics siding with him on the issue. Trump himself calling it "a new low", while his campaign called on her to apologize for a sentiment they say betrays contempt for voters.
The remark, which some observers compared to 2012 GOP nominee's infamous "47 percent" comment that undermined his standing with many voters — for which he was forced to apologize —appeared poised to roil an already polarizing and volatile race where both candidates have struggled to connect with key voting blocs.
For Trump, a durable electoral coalition has thus far proven elusive given his charged remarks about immigrants. In light of this, Clinton has made a concerted effort to define Trump by legions of supporters known euphemistically as the "Alt-Right"
Trump's most prominent backers have furiously denied being motivated by racism, and are instead deeply concerned about the economy. At the same time, many of the GOP contenders supporters have been linked to bigoted behavior and opinions, especially on social media.
Clinton's backers were equally as quick to rally to her defense, unleashing a wave of furious sparring on social media between both camps.
However, even Republicans critical of Trump's candidacy in general distanced themselves from Clinton's broadside. A number of "Alt Right' Republican critics found themselves defending Trump's umbrage at Clinton's remark.
Tom Nichols, a "Never Trump" Republican and a national security expert who has backed Clinton over Trump, likened her remark to Romney's "47 percent" jibe in 2012.