GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton praised South Carolina leaders for removing the Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds but said the country must “dig deeper” against racial injustice.
“America’s long struggle with racism is far from finished,” she said at a technical college in Greenville, South Carolina, on Thursday.
Separately, she defended Planned Parenthood against attacks from her Republican counterparts who are using an edited video to accuse the women’s health care and abortion provider of profiting from the sale of fetal tissue to researchers.
She accused Republicans of a “concerted effort” to undermine a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
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It was Clinton’s first campaign appearance in South Carolina, which holds the South’s first presidential primary, since the massacre at a black church in Charleston prompted the flag’s removal by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and the GOP-run legislature.
In Greenville, Clinton praised “your governor,” though she did not call Haley by name.
At an earlier stop in West Columbia, a few miles from the Capitol, where the Confederate banner was removed earlier this month, Clinton declared, “Anybody who says we don’t have more progress to make is blind.”
She offered a harsh assessment of a criminal justice system she said is unfair to African-Americans.
“There are clear, undeniable racial disparities,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to gloss it over or pretend it will just go away if we are nicer to each other.” She said: “We have to dig deeper,” and that all Americans should rally behind the cry, “black lives matter.”
The phrase spread rapidly after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina. The white officer who shot Brown was not charged. In the South Carolina case, the officer captured on video shooting Scott in the back has since been fired and charged with murder. Clinton also cited the Texas case of Sandra Bland, who was found dead in her jail cell last week after her arrest during a traffic stop.
Though she promised to address “mass incarceration” of young black males, she declined in a news conference afterward to denounce her advocacy of crime legislation signed by her husband, President Bill Clinton, that stiffened sentences for many nonviolent offenders.
“We were facing different problems in the ’80s and ’90s which I did allude to here today,” she said, referring to spiking crime rates. But, she added, “It is time for us to say, what have we learned and what do we need to do now. That is what I am talking about.”
On Planned Parenthood, Clinton did not address details of the videos circulated by an anti-abortion group that taped a Planned Parenthood executive discussing the sale of fetal tissue from aborted fetuses.
Republican say the initial, edited version of the video shows Planned Parenthood profits from the practice. The full video shows the executive discussing fees intended only to cover the cost of processing tissue samples.
“Planned Parenthood has apologized for the insensitivity of the employee who was taped, and they will continue to answer questions of Congress and others,” Clinton said.
But she said Planned Parenthood provides “essential services for women, not just reproductive health services” and shouldn’t suffer further financial hits because of the latest stories.
Clinton repeated her call for more federal spending on early childhood education and infrastructure as well as on expanding broadband Internet access in poor areas.
She again avoided taking a specific position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. “Every trade deal does have pluses and minuses,” she said, noting she both backed and rejected such agreements as a senator. “It’s our job to maximize the pluses.”
Clinton is set to deliver another economic address Friday in New York.
She did not directly answer a question about whether she backs legislation that would split up banks that she again said are part of “a ‘too big to fail’ problem.”
Instead, Clinton said regulators should be given the opportunity to “fully implement” the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul that President Barack Obama signed in 2010.
Associated Press writer Lisa Lerer in Washington contributed to this report.
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