Oct 6, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Hillary Clinton says MAGA "cult members" need "deprogramming"

Hillary Clinton speaks at the unveiling of her portrait

Hillary Clinton speaks at an event at the US Department of State on Sept. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Hillary Clinton likened devoted supporters of former President Trump to cult members and warned they may need "deprogramming," in an interview with CNN that aired Thursday.

Why it matters: "Commonsense" and "sane" Republicans are being intimidated by MAGA members of the caucus, according to Clinton, who ran against Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

  • Clinton noted that most Republicans joining with Democrats last week to keep the government open and avoid a shutdown as proof a "commonsense" faction of the GOP exists.
  • Clinton predicted that Trump, who is running for president again, will be the Republican nominee for 2024. "We have to defeat him," she told host Christiane Amanpour.

What she's saying: Many "MAGA extremists," she added, "take their marching orders from Donald Trump."

  • Trump has "no credibility left" and is seeking to defend himself in civil and criminal cases, she added, referencing Trump's mounting legal woes.
  • Claiming that Trump is "only in it for himself," the former Secretary of State wondered at what point his supporters will break from him.
  • "Maybe there needs to be a formal deprogramming of the cult members, but something needs to happen," she added.

While internal divisions within the parties have always existed, Clinton argued that the influence that the MAGA wing currently wields is unique.

  • "We had very strong partisans in both parties in the past, and we had very bitter battles over all kinds of things," said Clinton, also a former U.S. senator in New York. "But there wasn't this little tail of extremism ... wagging the dog of the Republican Party as it is today," she said.

Make America Great Again Inc., a super PAC created by Trump allies, pushed back against Clinton's claims.

  • "President Trump has said countless times that they are only coming after him, because he stands in their way from coming after you — and Hillary Clinton just confirmed that to be true," MAGA Inc. spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said in a statement Friday.
  • Voters will reject Democrats' "re-education camp agenda" to reelect Trump, she added.

Flashback: The comments are drawing comparisons to Clinton's controversial comment during the 2016 election, when she said half of Trump supporters belonged in a "basket of deplorables."

  • Those in this category could be cateogorized as "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic," Clinton said at the time.
  • She later expressed regret for being "grossly generalistic."

Zoom out: Clinton has long been a frequent target of attacks from Trump and other Republicans.

  • Some party members have even sought to reinsert her into the 2024 race as a foil to Trump.
Go deeper