Bill Clinton explains heated exchange with protesters at wife's campaign rally

Bill Clinton explains heated exchange with protesters at wife's campaign rally

Former US president Bill Clinton is offering a near-apology for his heated exchange with protesters at a campaign event for his wife, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Bill Clinton told supporters in Pennsylvania on Friday that he likes protests but it "bothers" him when activists drown him out.

"So I did something yesterday in Philadelphia. I almost wanted to apologise for it, but I want to use it as an example of the danger threatening our country," he said.

The handful of protesters at the Hillary Clinton presidential rally on Thursday were objecting to welfare reform and gun violence laws passed when Bill Clinton was in office 20 years ago.

"I don't know how you would characterise the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out on the street to murder other African-American children," Bill Clinton told the crowd.

"Maybe you thought they were good citizens. She didn't. You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter."

As first lady, Mrs Clinton used the term "super-predators" to describe young people in gangs in a 1996 speech about the crime bill, one of her husband's signature policy achievements. Some blacks have found the term offensive, and she has said she regrets using the term.

Bill Clinton has also said he regrets signing the 1994 legislation because it contributed to high incarceration rates of black people for non-violent crimes, like minor drug offences.

On Friday, he said Americans need to be able to have conversations, even when they are angry, a standard he failed to meet on Thursday with the protesters.

"I realised, finally, I was talking past her in the way she was talking past me. We got to stop that in this country. We got to listen to each other," he said.

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