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Oct 28, 2015 8:47 PM

Steinhauser: Clinton defends VA comments, details death penalty stance in NH1 News interview

NH1 Political Director -

GOFFSTOWN – Hillary Clinton Wednesday defended her recent characterization of the Veterans Affairs controversy and said that the federal death penalty should be limited to “terrorism and related incidents,” but added that “I don’t think we should abolish it.”

The Democratic presidential front runner made her comments in a one-on-one interview with NH1 News, in which Clinton also weighed in on the now fired police deputy who threw a disorderly student to the ground at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina, saying “he was definitely out of line.”

Watch entire Hillary Clinton interview with NH1 News

Last week, during an interview with MSNBC, Clinton said the problems facing the VA have “not been as widespread as it has been made out to be.”

Asked by NH1 News about those comments, Clinton said “what I was attempting to say that there are some who want use the problems at the VA as an excuse to abolish the VA. And I don’t believe that.”

“I think that we have to be vigilant, we have to make improvements where they are deserved and if it’s a top to bottom reform, then we should do it. But there’s also good things that happen at the VA and a lot of veterans have gotten good care there. So let’s not paint everything with the same brush. Let’s fix the problems, the ones that are systemic need to be dealt with system wide, those that are located in a program or a facility need to be rooted out,” she added.

Republicans have criticized Clinton over those comments.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, said “I don’t know what Hillary Clinton’s view of what widespread is but the facts are stubborn things.”

The 2008 GOP presidential nominee (and Vietnam War veteran) then listed statistics of veterans who’ve died waiting for care at VA facilities, saying “the VA Inspector General found as many as 307,000 veterans have died waiting for care in recent years.”

”If that’s not quote ‘widespread,’ I would like to know what Hillary Clinton’s definition of widespread is,” McCain added.

Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon responded, saying that “at this point, Republicans are trying to exploit the scandal to try to score partisan points.”

Clinton details death penalty stance

Clinton’s interview with NH1 News came minutes after she headlined the latest edition of Politics and Eggs, a speaking series co-hosted by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics that’s a must stop for presidential candidates. Some 500 people were in the audience, which was the largest crowd at Politics and Eggs so far this election cycle.

One of the questions she faced was about the death penalty. In Clinton’s response, which was her first on the issue so far this campaign season, she said “I do not favor abolishing it however because I think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty but I would like to see those be very limited and rare as opposed to what we have seen in some states.”

She went further in her NH1 News interview, saying “the death penalty is primarily a state decision. I think states need to look very carefully whether they need to continue it, how it is applied, whether there are discriminatory effects. I was talking about the federal government. And it’s limited but I don’t think we should abolish it in the federal government.”

“But we ought to reserve it for terrorism and related incidents that are, like the Boston Marathon bomber, so that’s why I think we should be really limiting it but not abolishing it when it comes to applying it,” she added.

Clinton’s comments put daylight between her and her two rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. Both Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley oppose the death penalty in all instances.

Clinton was also asked by NH1 News about the actions of a South Carolina sheriff’s deputy who was caught on video slamming a 16-year old student to the ground. The deputy was fired Wednesday morning.

“There’s no excuse for that kind of behavior from an adult towards any young person in a school setting or anywhere. If there are discipline issues they should be approached in a careful non-violent way. And I thought what he did was way, way out of line and should not be tolerated,” Clinton said.

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