Bernie Sanders Was Called Out for Online Supporters’ Vicious Behavior. He Shut It Down.

“They are not part of our movement.”

Bernie Sanders speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate on Wednesday, February 19, 2020, in Las Vegas.John Locher/AP

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Bernie Sanders was put on the spot at the Democratic debate Wednesday night over the vicious online attacks by some of his online supporters. Sanders bluntly condemned their behavior.

“We have more than 10.6 million people on Twitter, and 99.9 percent of them are decent human beings,” Sanders said. “If there are a few people who make ugly remarks, I disown those people.”

“They are not part of our movement,” he concluded.

Sanders’ comments came after former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg reminded viewers that Sanders supporters had threatened top officials of Nevada’s Culinary Union, a Democratic powerhouse, over the phone and online in the lead-up to Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, the third nominating contest of the Democratic primary. (The union has recently warned its members about Sanders’ Medicare-for-All plan.)

Buttigieg seized on Sanders’ response, suggesting the senator was showing a lack of personal responsibility. Buttigieg said he respected what Sanders’ said, but wondered, “At a certain point, you gotta ask yourself: Why did this pattern arise? Why is this especially the case among your supporters?”

Sanders vehemently disagreed, adding that his campaign surrogates like former Ohio state senator Nina Turner have also been the subject of “ugly, sexist, racist attacks.”

Buttigieg pushed back: “It’s about how you inspire people to act. I think you have to accept some responsibility.”

Sanders’ online supporters have been a source of fascination and derision throughout the campaign, earning particular scrutiny after the behavior toward the Culinary Union leaders came to light. Earlier this week, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg released an ad featuring a supercut of some of Sanders’ supporters most stunning barbs. Sanders already condemned that behavior during a CNN town hall on Tuesday night, telling an audience that he doesn’t tolerate “ugly attacks against anybody.”

“I have an idea about how you stop sexism on the internet,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar volunteered after the exchange Wednesday. “Nominate a woman.” Yeah, sure, that’ll solve it, Amy.

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We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

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