Clinton controversy: Invokes 9/11 to defend Wall Street ties

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Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Martin O'Malley participate in their second Democratic presidential primary debate.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Hillary Clinton came under fire on Saturday night for seeming to use the 9/11 attacks to deflect criticism about her relationship with Wall Street.

In one of the debate’s most tense exchanges, Sen. Bernie Sanders accused Clinton of being too cozy with the big banks.

Clinton fired back, charging that Sanders was trying to “impugn my integrity.”

“I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked,” Clinton said. “Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York.”

Clinton was asked at the debate to respond on the spot to a tweet challenging her comments.

“Well, I’m sorry that whoever tweeted that had that impression because I worked closely with New Yorkers after 9/11 for my entire first term to rebuild,” Clinton said. “So, yes, I did know people. I’ve had a lot of folks give me donations from all kinds of backgrounds say, ‘I don’t agree with you on everything, but I like what you do. I like how you stand up. I’m going to support you.’ And I think that is absolutely appropriate.”

Sanders responded, “She’s a senator from New York, she worked and many of us supported you in trying to rebuild our devastation. But at at the end of the day, Wall Street today has enormous economic and political power,” Sanders continued, calling again for the largest banks to be “broken up.”

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, ripped Clinton, saying she had reached a “new low.”

Clinton spokeswoman Jennifer Palmeri said after the debate: “Her point was she was proud to stand with this community that was so devastated to help industry recover.”