Fresh off his first rallies of the 2020 campaign, in Brooklyn and Chicago, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday sat down for a studio interview with “The Breakfast Club,” a syndicated radio show that originates on New York’s 105.1 FM and reaches a young, mostly African-American audience.
Co-host Charlamagne tha God opened the 40-minute discussion with a blunt question for the independent senator from Vermont.
“So, Bernie, 44 out of 45 presidents in this country have been white men,” he said. “Do you think we need another one?”
“Well, I think you need this one,” Sanders replied. “We are living in an unprecedented time. We have the most dangerous president in modern history of this country. He is somebody who is a pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe ... this is a bad-news guy.”
Sanders, who formally announced his second bid for the Democratic nomination on Feb. 19, has spent the first few weeks of his campaign tearing into President Trump. Sanders is also making an effort to connect with African-American voters, something he largely failed to do in 2016.
“This time, we’re starting from a different position,” Sanders said the radio show. “We were criticized for being too white, that was a correct criticism. We were criticized for being too male, that was a correct criticism. That’s going to change.”
At his rally Saturday on the campus of Brooklyn College, the self-described democratic socialist railed against the “prison-industrial-complex” that has disproportionately affected people of color. “We are going to end the international embarrassment of having more people in jail than any other country on earth,” Sanders said. “No more private prisons and detention centers. No more profiteering from locking people up. No more ‘war on drugs.’ No more keeping people in jail because they’re too poor to afford cash bail.”
Sanders recalled growing up in a lower-middle-class family in a “three-and-a-half-room rent-controlled apartment” in Brooklyn.
“My mother’s dream was that someday our family would move out of that rent-controlled apartment to a home of our own,” Sanders said. “That dream was never fulfilled. She died young while we were still living in that rent-controlled apartment.”
In Chicago, Sanders recalled his time spent as a student at the University of Chicago, where he took part in sit-ins to protest the school’s segregated housing in the 1960s. He also reflected on taking a bus from Chicago to Washington, D.C., in 1963 to participate in the March on Washington and to hear Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Sanders vowed to end voter suppression.
“It is incomprehensible to me that, in the year 2019, we continue to have a president, a Supreme Court and Republican governors who still are trying to deny people of color and poor people the right to vote,” Sanders said at his Sunday night rally at Chicago’s Navy Pier. “In the last decade, more than 30 states have considered voter suppression laws whose clear intent is to disenfranchise people of color. How pathetic and how cowardly is that?”
He added: “Brothers and sisters, together we will end voter suppression in this country and move to automatic voter registration. We are going to make voting easier, not harder.”
Also Sunday, Sanders visited Selma, Ala., to participate in annual events marking 1965’s “Bloody Sunday,” when protesters demanding voting rights for blacks were beaten by a white mob, abetted by police.
While there, Sanders attended a breakfast honoring Hillary Clinton, who defeated him in the 2016 Democratic primary — in part because of support from black voters.
In his “Breakfast Club” interview, Sanders was asked about his position on paying reparations to black Americans for slavery and Jim Crow — something two other candidates, Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have said they would support.
“We have to deal with the fact there is enormous disparity between the black community and the white community,” Sanders said.
But when asked by Charlamagne tha God if he would support “free cash payouts,” Sanders said, “No.”
“Do you mean a check to every African-American? Well, then, that means a check to every Native American that were wiped out when the settlers came,” he said. “I think the way we go forward is to build America together.”
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