Almost sorry: Clinton defends spat with Black Lives Matter protester

Former US President Bill Clinton argues with Black Lives Matter protesters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 7, 2016 © NowThis Election
Former US president Bill Clinton said he “almost” wants to apologize for snapping at a Black Lives Matter protester criticizing his wife. He attempted to re-frame the confrontation as a warning about listening better.

“I rather vigorously defended my wife, as I am wont to do, and I realized finally I was talking past her the way she was talking past me,” Clinton told students in Erie, Pennsylvania on Friday, referring to a young woman who interrupted him as he stumped for his wife Hillary in Philadelphia on Thursday.

“I almost want to apologize for it, but I want to use it as an example of the danger threatening our country,” he said, adding, “We gotta stop that in this country. We gotta listen to each other.”

The two-time Democratic president did not do much listening on Thursday, however. Though Hillary Clinton had apologized for using the term “superpredators” to refer to young African-Americans in the 1990s, Bill sprung to her defense when a protester brought it up at the town hall in Philadelphia.

“I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out into the streets to murder other African-American children,” Clinton said. “Maybe you thought they were good citizens. She didn’t. You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter. Tell the truth!”

Clinton argued that the 1994 crime bill – which critics have denounced as responsible for imprisoning record numbers of African-American men – actually helped bring violent crime rates to a 46-year low. He also brought up his administration’s work to fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa, saying that it helped save black lives.

The protester who heckled Clinton said she was not interested in hearing his explanations, however.

“No, I don’t want to listen to Bill Clinton,” Erica Mines, 38, told reporters after the event. ”He’s not a black man. He doesn’t represent the black community at all. I don’t care how much of the saxophone he can play.”

"Bill Clinton is a politician," Mines continued. "He did his job, which was to counteract anyone who wants to talk to him or point out the truth about exactly what he did to affect our community."

In the primary race for the Democratic presidential nomination against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton has so far won the lion’s share of African-American votes. Mines cited this as one of the reasons she was protesting at the Philadelphia event.

“I’m here because Hillary Clinton doesn’t deserve the black vote,” Mines told the National Public Radio. “She is married to Bill Clinton. Their policies are the same. You can’t separate them. They think the same.”