Hillary Clinton issued a blistering takedown of Donald Trump Thursday, accusing him of racism and arguing that “fringe” elements have taken over the Republican Party.
“From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia,” Clinton said at a campaign rally here. “He’s taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous.”
She added, “This is what I want to make clear today: A man with a long history of racial discrimination, who traffics in dark conspiracy theories drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far reaches of the Internet, should never run our government or command our military. Ask yourself: If he doesn’t respect all Americans, how can he serve all Americans?”
The comments — delivered in what could be a crucial swing state in November — mark a dramatic escalation in the war of words between Clinton and Trump. The Republican nominee flatly labeled her a “bigot” on Wednesday, prompting Clinton to tell CNN he was “taking a hate movement mainstream” and was outside the norm of American politics.
Trump offered a prebuttal in New Hampshire earlier Thursday, saying that Clinton “paints decent Americans as racists.”
“She bullies voters who only want a better future and tries to intimidate them out of voting for a change,” Trump said at a campaign event in Manchester. “Hillary Clinton isn’t just attacking me, she’s attacking all of the decent people of all backgrounds — doesn’t matter — of all backgrounds who support this incredible, once in a lifetime movement.”
He later tweeted after her remarks, “Hillary Clinton’s short speech is pandering to the worst instincts in our society. She should be ashamed of herself!”
Meanwhile, Trump spokesman Jason Miller described Clinton’s attacks as a “desperation play.”
Speaking at a community college, Clinton sought to link Trump to the “alt-right,” an informal group of mostly white conservative men aligned with the Republican Party that sees Trump as the only choice in 2016. The “alt-right” lives primarily online, regularly pushing racist, homophobic and sexist content.
Trump, however, has been embraced by the fringe groups, in part because he tapped Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, as the CEO of his campaign. Bannon has said that his former publication is “the platform of the alt-right.”
Clinton said the Bannon hire has led to a “de facto merger” between Breitbart and the Trump campaign represents a “landmark achievement” for a “fringe element that has effectively taken over the Republican Party.”
“All of this adds up to something we’ve never seen before,” Clinton said. “Of course there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, steeped in racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone. Until now.”