WILLIAMSON, W.Va.— Hillary Clinton, in a rare candid moment on the trail, apologized to a man who confronted her over comments made earlier this year about putting coal miners "out of business."
Bo Copley, a West Virginian who recently lost his job at a coal company, teared up as he told the former secretary of state that he didn’t know how to explain his situation or her comments to his young children. Seated beside his wife, Copley slid over a photo of his kids to Clinton, who was sitting a just few feet from him at the community round-table discussion.
He questioned how she could say what she said at a CNN forum in March — "We're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business" — and then "come in here and tell us how you’re going to be our friend."
He also told her he was representative of the angry crowd who had assembled outside hours before.
"Those people out there don’t see you as a friend," he said, referring to the dozens of protesters within earshot.
Clinton then engaged in a very frank conversation about her comments, apologizing repeatedly and calling her prior remarks a "misstatement."
"What I said was totally out of context from what I meant because I have been talking about helping coal country for a very long time,” she said. “What I was saying is that the way things are going now, we will continue to lose jobs. That’s what I meant to say."
She later admitted that her comments on coal miners meant her chances in the upcoming West Virginia primary are "pretty difficult."
Aides said they knew coming to the region could produce tough conversations like this one, but felt it was important to address this issue head-on. The confrontation came in the midst of a two-day bus swing through Appalachia, featuring mostly small events focused on the economy and jobs.
After the event, Copley told reporters he "would have liked to have heard more of what her plan is" for coal country.
When asked if she won him over, he said no.
Copley, 39, is a registered Republican and explained that he hasn’t made up his mind about which candidate he’s going to vote for in the primary.
"I’m not into political games. I’m not worried about the primary," he said. "I want to hear the plans you have in store for us if you do get elected."
Though he appreciated Clinton’s apology, he said he wished it had been made in public sooner than Monday’s event.
Outside the event, protesters could be heard yelling "Go home, Hillary!" Several were carrying Trump signs and alternated between chants of "Benghazi! Benghazi!" and “We want Trump!”
Clinton meanwhile made indirect reference to the protests by saying: "I will do whatever I can regardless of whether people are yelling at me and whether people are misrepresenting me or whether people are not looking at everything I say and taking something out of context. That’s part of it, I understand that. But I’m gonna get up every single day trying to figure out what to do to help you provide the kind of future for your children that they deserve to have."