It's over for the Clintons and The Donald: Inside 2016's most tragic development

Once allies (of sorts), the Clintons and Trump have engaged in a war of words in recent days

By Sophia Tesfaye

Published June 19, 2015 4:52PM (EDT)

Donald Trump                      (Reuters/Brendan Mcdermid)
Donald Trump (Reuters/Brendan Mcdermid)

Speaking with a Nevada political reporter Thursday, Hillary Clinton slammed Donald Trump for saying "very inflammatory things about Mexicans" and called him "emblematic" of the type of "public discourse" that "triggers" people like the Charleston shooter.

During his rambling announcement speech Tuesday, Trump said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

On Thursday, Clinton sat down with veteran Nevada journalist Jon Ralston who asked her about the massacre of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina church; a 21-year-old white supremacist has been charged in the killings. Clinton suggested that the killer may have been "triggered" by a negative public discourse, pointing to Trump's comments as "emblematic" of the problem:

We have to have a candid national conversation about race, and about discrimination, prejudice, hatred. The people who do this kind of dastardly, horrible act are a very small percentage. But unfortunately public discourse is sometimes hotter and more negative than it should be, which can, in my opinion, trigger people who is less than stable to do something like this.

Although Clinton never mentioned Trump by name, she pointed directly to his derisive remarks about Mexican immigrants on Tuesday to illustrate her point:

I think we have to speak out against it. Like, for example, a recent entry into the Republican presidential campaign said some very inflammatory things about Mexicans. Everybody should stand up and say that’s not acceptable. You know you don’t talk like that on talk radio. You don't talk like that on the kind of political campaigns. I think he is emblematic. So I want people to understand, it’s not just him, it’s about everybody. The second thing is guns. Let’s just cut to the chase – it’s guns.

The night before, former President Bill Clinton appeared on Comedy Central's The Daily Show where host John Stewart jokingly asked him about the "Trumpocrate's" entrance into the presidential race. Clinton took the opportunity to push-back on Trump's claims of a supposed influx in Mexican immigration, noting that "between 2010 and 2014, there was no net in migration from Mexico," asking "that surprise you all?”

For the Clintons and the "Apprentice" host, the public rift marks a sharp departure from the not-so-distant past. Prior to dabbling in Republican presidential politics, Trump donated to Hillary Clinton's Senate campaigns, and he said as recently as this week that he considered Bill Clinton his favorite recent president. Ten years ago, both Clintons attended Trump's wedding to supermodel Melania Knauss.

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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2016 Elections Bill Clinton Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Racism