UNITED NATIONS — Hillary Rodham Clinton tried to get the rollout of her likely Presidential campaign back on track by admitting she should have used a government email address while serving as the nation’s top diplomat — an admission that sought to quell a political furor that even some Democratic allies said she could no longer avoid.
The focus on Clinton’s emails has jumbled what had been expected to be a smooth glide toward the kickoff of her presidential campaign next month.
The former Secretary of State had planned to spend March promoting her work on women’s equality, a signature issue for someone who could become the nation’s first female president.
Instead, questions about Clinton’s email habits have dominated her activities in the past week, following revelations that she used a personal email account at the State Department and did so via a private server kept at her home in suburban New York.
While Democrats have dismissed the notion that Clinton’s emails are something voters will care about come Election Day 2016, her silence — aside from a late-night tweet sent last week — had led several of her former colleagues in the Senate to urge her to tell her side of the story.
During a news conference March 10 at the United Nations, after she had delivered a previously scheduled speech on women’s rights, Clinton pledged that all her work-related email would be made public “for everyone to see.”
But she also acknowledged that she deleted tens of thousands of emails related to personal matters. She refused calls from Republicans to turn over the email server she kept at her home to an independent reviewer.
“The server contains personal communications from my husband and me, and I believe I have met all of my responsibilities, and the server will remain private,” Clinton told reporters who crammed into a hallway to ask questions at her first news conference in more than two years.
Clinton defiantly declared that she did nothing improper in exclusively using a private account for official emails while secretary of state.
“I fully complied with every rule I was governed by,” Clinton said in the 20-minute news conference that marked her first comments on the controversy.
For Republicans, the email controversy represents an opportunity to tarnish Clinton’s image at a time polls show her leading all the likely Republican presidential contenders.
Not long after Clinton spoke, Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Chairman of a House panel investigating the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, said he was “left with more questions than answers” and that he planned to call Clinton to appear before his committee at least twice.
Gowdy said one appearance from Clinton would be needed to “clear up” her role in using personal email, while the second would be to answer questions related to the Benghazi attacks that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
Those appearances are likely to create an unwelcome distraction for the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Clinton said she had exchanged about 60,000 emails in her four years as President Barack Obama’s top diplomat, about half of which were work-related. None contained classified information, she said, and her private email system did not suffer any security breaches.
But since the emails were sent to and from her personal server, there is no way to independently verify her assertion they were, as she said, “within the scope of my personal privacy and that particularly of other people.”
Clinton insisted she did not break any rules, but she does appear to have violated what the Obama White House has called “very specific guidance” that officials should use government email to conduct business. But she said that in hindsight it would have been “smarter” to use a government account as well as her personal one.
Republicans needled Clinton for her explanation that she used the private email account out of “convenience” — a way to avoid carrying one device for work emails and a second for personal messages. They pointed to Clinton’s appearance last month in California’s Silicon Valley, when she said she uses multiple electronic devices.
“I have an iPad, a mini-iPad, an iPhone and a BlackBerry,” Clinton said.
Democrats defended Clinton, saying it was reasonable to want to carry just one device. Jerry Crawford, a Co-chair of her 2008 campaign in Iowa, called her response “a very commonsense explanation that Americans will appreciate.”
Still, Democrats appeared girded for a lengthy confrontation with Republicans over the issue. Clinton, meanwhile, brushed off suggestions that the email controversy might hurt a presidential campaign.
“I trust the American people to make their decisions about political and public matters,” she said.
Associated Press writers Ken Thomas at the United Nations and Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report