“…you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.” Three words make this statement problematic: 

Half: Hillary chose too large a fraction. "Half" is just one person away from "most." The whole group ends up feeling smeared when you call out this large a segment.

Basket: Objects belong in baskets; people don’t. Being put in a basket - even just verbally - is dehumanizing.

Deplorables: Deplorable is an adjective, not a noun. I’m fine labeling someone’s actions or beliefs as deplorable. But to label someone as “a deplorable” is to condemn their entire being. 

Here are three basket-free alternate versions that Hillary could have used to make her point with more precision and less controversy: 

  • "Far too many Trump supporters have said and done deplorable things at his rallies." 
  • "A significant percentage of Trump’s supporters hold deplorable beliefs."
  • "Trump supporters are backing a candidate who has made numerous deplorable statements." 

There are times when work (or life) calls for us to be sharply critical of others. When doing so, we need to be clear about our purpose and precise in our choice of words. 

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