Bernie Sanders: I don’t believe many Trump supporters are racist or homophobic
Bernie Sanders has claimed that Donald Trump’s lack of “political correctness” contributed to his victory, but challenged fears that his supporters are “racist or homophobic”.
The Senator, who ran for President in the Democratic primaries earlier this year but has vowed to continue sitting as an Independent, made the comments in an townhall interview with MSNBC.
Asked about Trump’s history of offensive comments, Sanders said: “I think he said he will not be politically correct… I think he said some outrageous and painful things, but I think people are tired of the same old political… corr… er… rhetoric, and they believe that he was speaking from his heart and willing to take on everybody.”
Asked to clarify his comments, Sanders defined “political correctness” as meaning “not [being] allowed to say are things which offend very powerful people” before shifting gear to criticise US trade policy.
However, the host Chris Hayes challenged: “Let me ask the audience, when you hear political correctness, do you think about trade policy, or how you are or are not allowed to talk about certain groups of Americans?”
When the majority of the audience put their hands up for the latter, Hayes continued: “It seems to me that was part of it too… he was going after these shibboleths like you said, but he was also saying things that, frankly, when we’re talking about political correctness, they’re just rules about not being a jerk.”
Sanders attempted to change the subject again, saying: “I’ll tell you what else he was doing… he was talking about the media. Do people here think the media reflects the reality of American society?”
Hayes pushed: “I’m not trying to score points… my point here is these things are intertwined.
“He’s violating taboos that we thing should be violated but he was [also] violating taboos that a lot of people including myself think we should keep, like how we talk about women or people of colour.”
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Sanders responded: “I think some of that is unfortunate.
“I happen to believe… one of the arguments as to why Trump won is the belief that most or many of his supporters are sexists or racists or homophobes. I happen not to believe that’s the case.
“I think what he did do is he said, ‘You know what, there’s a lot of pain in this country, people are scared and people are worried.’ People are tired of status quo politics. He broke through that.”
The comments may not do much to appease critics of Sanders, who warn that while he is popular with white millennials, his message often fails to resonate with minority groups.
During the Democratic Primaries, African-American voters heavily voted for Clinton over Senator Sanders, while LGBT voters also favoured Hillary Clinton according to polling.