Bill Clinton: "I almost want to apologize for" Black Lives Matter comments

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton makes remarks at the Hillary Victory Fund "I'm With Her" benefit concert for his wife, U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, at Radio City Music Hall in the Manhattan borough of New York City, in this March 2, 2016 file photo.

REUTERS

While stumping for his wife in Pennsylvania, former President Bill Clinton talked about his reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests that broke out at Thursday's campaign events.

"So I did something yesterday in Philadelphia. I almost want to apologize for it," Clinton said Friday in Erie. But, he added, "we're all vulnerable to saying something we don't like, then finding one fact that we can take out of context and then condemning somebody else."

The former president was referring to a run-in he had Thursday with Black Lives Matter activists, who repeatedly interrupted his speech in Philadelphia with calls for criminal sentencing reform. Clinton defended his heavily criticized 1994 crime bill and said to the rest of the crowd as the protesters continued to yell during his speech that "the [protesters] who won't let you answer are afraid of the truth."

During his Erie visit, however, Clinton acknowledged the limits of that crime bill, which he had signed after it passed Congress.

"It is true it had longer sentencing provisions," Clinton told the crowd at the Pennsylvania university. "It is true that they led to some people going to jail for too long, in ways that cannot be justified. And I went to the NAACP convention last year and said that it's -- said it was way past time to change it."

He noted that when it came to criminal justice reform, he had previously called for more education, job placement, and transition support for prisoners, "just as Hillary did" with her proposals.

Of one of the activists Clinton had encountered Thursday, he admitted that his handling of the situation was not ideal.

"I rather vigorously defended my wife, as I am wont to do, and I realized, finally realized I was talking past [the demonstrator] the way she was talking past me," Clinton said. "We got to stop that in this country. We got to listening to each other again."

"I know those young people yesterday were just trying to get good television," he added. "And they did. But that doesn't mean that I was most effective in answering it."