Hillary Clinton formally apologized on Tuesday for her use of a private e-mail account during her tenure as secretary of state, shifting tone on an issue that has dogged her presidential campaign.
“That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility,” Clinton said in interview with ABC News on Tuesday. The network released that quote early from the interview, which is due to aired in full on Tuesday evening.
Clinton has said throughout the year that her exclusive use of a private e-mail during her tenure as the State Department, as opposed to a government account, created a controversy that she now regrets. But the former first lady had until now avoided suggesting directly she was sorry, emphasizing she was allowed to use her own e-mail account instead of the state.gov system.
In fact, in an interview on Monday with the Associated Press, Clinton had been directly asked if she would apologize and did not.
"What I did was allowed. It was allowed by the State Department. The State Department has confirmed that,” she said.
For Clinton, the apology seems an acknowledgement she is struggling to move beyond an issue that has dominated media coverage of her campaign. Even Clinton supporters have said the Democratic front-runner has not handled the issue well.
Her apology is not likely to end the controversy. The Obama administration is investigating if classified information was improperly on the server that maintained Clinton’s e-mail account. A congressional committee investigating how the State Department under Clinton handled the 2012 attacks at a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya has asked some of Clinton’s longtime aides about the e-mail system.
In the ABC interview on Tuesday, Clinton repeated her that view she did not send or receive classified material on the account. And the former secretary of state said she is trying to be “as transparent as I can,” in dealing with the investigations over the controversy.
Clinton also later posted an apology on her Facebook page (and sent directly to her supporters), saying, "I wanted you to hear this directly from me."
Polls suggest the controversy has become a political problem for Clinton, increasing the number of Americans who view her as untrustworthy. The investigations and the concerns about them from fellow Democrats appear to have spurred Vice-President Joe Biden to consider a 2016 presidential run.
At the same time, most polls of the race show Clinton ahead of her main challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as Biden. And a huge number of Democratic members of Congress, governors and other elected officials are backing the former secretary of state.