When Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said at a fundraiser on Friday that half of Donald Trump’s supporters fit into “the basket of deplorables,” the outrage was immediate. Clinton had to apologize for insulting the voters after Republicans criticized her remarks.
But one Republican, Sen. Lindsay Graham, has made a very similar point in the past. The only real difference between his remarks and Clinton’s is a dispute over whether it’s half or 40 percent of Trump’s supporters who hold these views.
Clinton described the “basket of deplorables” as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.” During the primary, Graham zeroed in on one specific Islamophobic conspiracy theory — the debunked notion that President Obama was born abroad and/or is a secret Muslim, which casts Obama’s blackness as inherently foreign and Islam as inherently threatening — as typical of Trump’s voters.
“There’s about 40 percent of the Republican primary voter who believes that Obama was born in Kenya and is a Muslim,” he said in December. “There’s just a dislike for President Obama that is visceral. It’s almost irrational.”
He made a similar remark on The Daily Show in March: “Thirty-five percent of my party believes that Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya.”
Graham had the data to back up his remarks. A CNN/ORC poll in September 2015 found that 43 percent of Republicans believed Obama was Muslim and that around 30 percent didn’t think the president was born in the United States.
Trump has never renounced his support of the birther movement. But as the rest of the Republican Party has embraced his campaign, some amnesia has set in about what brought him to prominence in the party.