In context: Hillary Clinton’s comments about coal jobs

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential hopeful, speaks during a round table discussion with locals at the Williamson Health and Wellness Center in Williamson, W.V., May 2, 2016. (Ty Wright/The New York Times)
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential hopeful, speaks during a round table discussion with locals at the Williamson Health and Wellness Center in Williamson, W.V., May 2, 2016. (Ty Wright/The New York Times)

Hillary Clinton met a tough crowd in West Virginia coal country recently.

The state, which will hold its primary May 10, backed Clinton over President Barack Obama in 2008. But some voters now see her as a threat to the area’s coal industry.

"How you could say you are going to put a lot of coal miners out of jobs, and then come in here and tell us how you’re going to be our friend?" unemployed coal worker Bo Copely asked Clinton at a campaign event on May 2.

Clinton acknowledged that she said something to that effect, but she also apologized.

"I don't know how to explain it other than what I said was totally out of context for what I meant because I have been talking about helping coal country for a very long time," Clinton said. "It was a misstatement because what I was saying is the way things are going now, they will continue to lose jobs. It didn't mean that we were going to do it. What I said is that is going to happen unless we take action to help and prevent it."

So what did Clinton say about putting coal miners out of work? We decided to look at the full context.

She made the comment during a March 13 CNN Town Hall. Journalist Roland Martin asked, in effect, why should poor white people vote for her.

In her response, Clinton did say that she would be putting coal companies out of business, as a result of moving toward renewable energy sources. But she followed that by saying she wanted to create new economic opportunities for current coal workers, possibly spurred by clean energy development.

Here are her full remarks, with the most relevant parts in bold:

Look, we have serious economic problems in many parts of our country. And Roland is absolutely right.  Instead of dividing people the way Donald Trump does, let's reunite around policies that will bring jobs and opportunities to all these underserved poor communities.

So for example, I'm the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right?

And we're going to make it clear that we don't want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.

Now we've got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don't want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.

So whether it's coal country or Indian country or poor urban areas, there is a lot of poverty in America.  We have gone backwards. We were moving in the right direction. In the '90s, more people were lifted out of poverty than any time in recent history.

Because of the terrible economic policies of the Bush administration, President Obama was left with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and people fell back into poverty because they lost jobs, they lost homes, they lost opportunities, and hope.  

So I am passionate about this, which is why I have put forward specific plans about how we incentivize more jobs, more investment in poor communities, and put people to work.