By Samantha Cooney
November 9, 2016
Samantha Cooney is the content strategy editor at TIME.

In an emotional concession speech on Wednesday morning, Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential nominee of a major party, apologized to her supporters for not making it over the finish line. And “sorry” is a rare word for a presidential candidate to include in their concession speech.

“This is not the outcome we wanted or we worked so hard for and I’m sorry that we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country,” Clinton said.

Motto reviewed the concession speeches from the losing presidential candidates over the past 20 years, and Clinton’s apology is unusual. In fact, only one other candidate explicitly apologized. In 2004, Democratic nominee John Kerry, who was defeated by President George W. Bush, apologized — but primarily for being a little over an hour late to his concession speech. “I’m sorry that we got here a little bit late and a little bit short,” Kerry said.

The other losing candidates — Mitt Romney in 2012, John McCain in 2008, Al Gore in 2000 and Bob Dole in 1996 — all began their speeches by expressing disappointment at the outcome and acknowledging the hard work of their supporters. But none of them explicitly apologized for losing.

There’s an argument to be made that Clinton’s apology is notable because of her gender, given the discussion about how women apologize too frequently for minor indiscretions (for what it’s worth, there’s also a separate discussion about how it’s sexist to critique the way women talk, apologies and all). And the fact that so few of her male predecessors offered similar apologies in their speeches may lend credence to that argument.

Ultimately, of course, the fault isn’t on Clinton — or any other losing candidate. Voters chose the president, and, in this election, they chose Donald Trump. She ran, and voters made their choice.

And on Wednesday, it was Clinton supporters who felt they owed the trailblazing female politician an apology.

Write to Samantha Cooney at


Read More From TIME