Buttigieg has ‘enormous respect’ for Hillary Clinton

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Saturday he has “enormous respect” for Hillary Clinton, and said in her 2016 presidential campaign she was “ill-served by a strategy and media environment.”

Buttigieg, a Democratic presidential hopeful, was asked by CNN affiliate WSBT in Indiana, about the backlash he received on Friday about comments he made in January about Clinton’s campaign.

“Just to make this clear, I think America would be a much better place if she were President,” Buttigieg said. “That’s why I voted for her and that’s why I campaigned for her, and I have enormous respect for Secretary Clinton.”

On Friday, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill slammed Buttigieg for comments he made in January about Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Buttigieg told The Washington Post magazine in an interview that published in January, “Donald Trump got elected because, in his twisted way, he pointed out the huge troubles in our economy and our democracy.” He added, “At least he didn’t go around saying that America was already great, like Hillary did.”

Merrill called Buttigieg’s comments “indefensible,” and tweeted, “@HillaryClinton ran on a belief in this country & the most progressive platform in modern political history. Trump ran on pessimism, racism, false promises, & vitriol. Interpret that how you want, but there are 66,000,000 people who disagree. Good luck.”

When asked by WSBT on Saturday about Merrill’s tweet, Buttigieg said in the industrial Midwest, people perceived the 2016 Democratic candidate “as basically saying that everything was just fine, and we should just believe in the system. And that was unconvincing.”

“And so even though people knew that the President was not a great character, I think a lot of folks voted for him just to kind of burn the house down because the system had let us down in so many ways,” he continued.

“That’s the point that I’m concerned with,” Buttigieg said. “It’s not a knock on any individual. It’s a concern about how we can take the lessons of the last election and apply them to get a better outcome in the next election.”

The mayor, who is 37, has formed a presidential exploratory committee, and if elected would be the youngest president in US history, and the first married gay president.