A teary-eyed West Virginia coal worker confronted Hillary Clinton at a campaign event on Monday over the Democratic presidential candidate’s promises to dismantle the coal industry.
Clinton offered a semi-apology to Bo Copley, a 39-year-old father who lost his job as a foreman in the struggling industry. But the former secretary of state also claimed that her anti-coal comments — which she made at a town hall event in March — were taken out of context.
“We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” Clinton said at the town hall.
“I just want to know how you can say you’re going to put a lot of coal miners out of, out of jobs, and then come in here and tell us how you’re going to be our friend, because those people out there don’t see you as a friend,” Copley told Clinton, referring to dozens of protesters gathered outside of Monday’s round-table session who shouted at the candidate to “Go home!” as she arrived.
Clinton, like most other Democrats, hope to cut the use of coal as an energy source, claiming that it contributes to climate change. Regulations that she and other Democrats support — as well as subsidies provided to other energy businesses — have cut demand for coal and left the industry in shambles.
“I don’t know how to explain it other than what I said was totally out of context from what I meant, because I’ve been talking about helping coal country for a very long time,” Clinton told Copley.
“And it was a misstatement, because what I was saying is that the way things are going now, we will continue to lose jobs.”
More than 11,000 coal workers have lost their jobs in the past year.
“I didn’t mean that we were going to do it, what I said was, that is going to happen unless we take action to try to and help and prevent it,” said Clinton, who has offered proposals she says will help displaced coal industry workers.
Clinton’s confrontation with Copley comes a day after former President Bill Clinton was heckled at a campaign event in the coal mining town of Logan. Protesters disrupted that event, and earlier in the week, the town’s mayor informed the campaign that it was not welcome because of the former first couple’s opposition to coal. (RELATED: Mayor Explains His Opposition To Clinton Appearances: ‘I’ve Got To Support Our Coal Miners’)
“I do feel a little bit sad and sorry that I gave folks the reason or the excuse to be so upset with me, because that is not what I intended at all,” Clinton said Monday.
She also said that as soon as she realized her comments were coming under fire, she called West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.
“I said Joe, ‘I’m so upset about this,’ and I wrote him a letter, and told him that I was very sorry that that was occurring because he knows, and he has known me a long time as he said, he knows that that’s not at all what I was saying or what I meant.”
While Clinton pledged to provide assistance to the region, she did hedge her bets.
“I’m not going to overpromise, I’m not going to say, ‘oh, it will all be perfect,'” she told Copley.
The displaced coal worker also had a pointed exchange with Manchin in which he told the senator that supporting Clinton hurts him politically.
“If I can be candid, I think still supporting her hurts you. It does,” Copley said.