It was an apology that made many of Hillary Clinton’s closest supporters bristle.
“At the end of the day, I am sorry that this has been confusing to people and has raised a lot of questions, but there are answers to all these questions,” Hillary Clinton told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell in an interview last Friday, when asked whether she should apologize for the email controversy dogging her campaign. “I take responsibility and it wasn’t the best choice.”
The classic “I’m sorry your feelings are hurt” response left many Clinton insiders fuming that the statement felt more like an insult than an apology — leading a growing chorus of advisors and donors to rachet up the pressure on Clinton and her campaign over the long weekend to take the apology a step further, multiple sources close to the campaign said.
Even operatives on her campaign admitted the apology on Mitchell’s show had not helped put the issue to bed.
“It wasn’t getting it done,” said a source inside the campaign.
On Tuesday, in a taped interview with ABC News’ David Muir, Clinton finally relented, delivering a straightforward, no-strings-attached apology.
The email set-up was “a mistake,” she said, “I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility.”
“I do think I could have and should have done a better job answering questions earlier,” she added.
Her remarks came during her third sit-down interview in recent days. The full ABC interview is set to air on Tuesday evening, but the network released Clinton’s one apologetic line in advance.
Tuesday’s change in direction followed an interview with the AP, in which Clinton again refused to apologize, on the lawyerly grounds that “what I did was allowed.” The decision to make a clean apology, a source said, was finalized Monday night.
The language of the question Clinton answered on ABC also differed from the one posed by Mitchell, who asked if Clinton “wanted to apologize to the American people for the choice you made.” That language was seen as heavy-handed by some Democrats, and asking for too much from Clinton.
“Though she can’t say it, HRC clearly went private because she didn’t want folks fishing around in personal email, and it boomeranged,” former Obama advisor David Axelrod tweeted after the interview. “She was right to admit mistake and take responsibility, but also wise to refuse the invitation to “apologize to American people.”
The new ABC News interview allowed her to apologize fully, without so explicitly beggin pardon from the entire country.
Privately, Clinton allies have been seething as the campaign has struggled to overcome the email controversy, with many blaming the fumbling response on the candidate herself. The hope was that the ABC News interview Tuesday night would provide what was necessary for the campaign to turn a corner.
The apology was the kind of reversal she never made in 2008, when on matters large and small Clinton showed off a real aversion to saying the word, “sorry.” That year, she consistently declined to apologize for her vote to authorize the war in Iraq — a move that eventually cost her in the Democratic primary.
Clinton’s shift to a more contrite response to the email story comes as evidence is mounting that the controversy has dragged on her poll numbers and favorability ratings, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders continues to surge and Vice President Joe Biden keeps alive the speculation of his own White House run.