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Clinton regrets using term 'superpredator' in 1996 crime speech

Hillary Clinton on Thursday said that she shouldn't have used the term "superpredator" when discussing young people during a speech two decades ago in support of the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act.

"Looking back, I shouldn't have used those words, and I wouldn't use them today," the Democratic presidential candidate said in a statement to The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart.

Clinton was confronted by an activist at a fundraiser in Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday night who called on her to explain why she "called black youth 'superpredators.' "

"You know what? Nobody's ever asked me before. You're the first person to ask me and I'm happy to address it," Clinton told the woman, Ashley Williams, according to the Post.

Williams was escorted out of the fundraiser by the Secret Service.

Clinton's statement Thursday addressed her 1996 speech at Keene State College in New Hampshire.

"They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called 'superpredators.' No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel," the first lady said at the time.

In her statement to the Post, Clinton said: "As an advocate, as First Lady, as Senator, I was a champion for children. And my campaign for president is about breaking down the barriers that stand in the way of all kids, so every one of them can live up to their God-given potential."

Clinton echoed that sentiment during a campaign event in Florence, S.C., on Thursday afternoon, where she mentioned unemployment and college debt among "the barriers" facing young people.

"I am not a single-issue candidate," Clinton said, taking a shot at her rival Bernie Sanders, who is known for his campaign focus on economic inequality. "I want to attack all of the barriers."

Williams appeared on CNN on Thursday, explaining her interruption of the candidate's fundraiser, saying she was "hoping to hear an apology" for Clinton's past remarks and describing her as "inconsistent" on the issue of criminal justice reform.

When presented with Clinton's statement to the Post, Williams said, "One of the things I don't hear in that response is an apology for mass incarceration. I also don't hear her taking responsibility for the ways in which those words and her backing certain policies has affected black communities and communities of color."

Clinton's lengthy statement, the latter part of which was not read on CNN, continued: "My life's work has been about lifting up children and young people who've been let down by the system or by society, kids who never got the chance they deserved. And unfortunately today, there are way too many of those kids, especially in African-American communities. We haven't done right by them. We need to. We need to end the school to prison pipeline and replace it with a cradle-to-college pipeline."

Clinton's popularity among black voters has been lynchpin for her support in South Carolina, where she is leading by wide margins ahead of Saturday's primary.

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