Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Sunday said claims that he did not support President Obama were “categorically false.”
The Vermont senator was grilled on ABC’s “This Week” over remarks that he made during a 2011 radio show suggesting that Democrats should consider challenging President Obama’s re-election campaign.
Sanders, who is the longest-serving independent in congressional history, defended his remarks and said they did not undermine his support of the president.
“The idea that I’ve worked against Barack Obama is categorically false,” Sanders said. “I’ve worked very hard to see Barack Obama elected. He came to Vermont to campaign for me in 2006. I’ve worked for him in 2008. I’ve worked for him in 2012.”
Sanders continued: “And listen, I think under incredible Republican obstructionism, Obama and Joe Biden have moved this country forward in a way that leaves [it] a hell of a lot better than we were when [President George W.] Bush left office.”
In 2011, Sanders called for a primary challenge to Obama, saying: “I think one of the reasons the president has been able to move so far to the right is that there is no primary opposition to him… I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.”
Sanders on Sunday went on to stress that though he supported the president, there were also a number of issues that divided them both, from foreign policy to trade to tax cuts.
That balance between not coming off as overly critical, while also pointing out significant differences over matters of policy, has been the same delicate dance that Sanders has had to deal with in nipping at the heels of the Democratic presidential front-runner, Hillary Clinton.
Sanders has said repeatedly that he plans to keep his campaign above the fray and not take personal jabs at Clinton or turn toward negative tactics. But “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd on Sunday noted that Sanders has started to toe the edge.
In the Boston Globe, Sanders said that he disagreed with Clinton on “virtually everything.” In The Wall Street Journal he said “consistency on the issues does speak to the character of the person.” And after saying publicly at the first Democratic debate that he was tired of hearing about Clinton’s “damn emails,” Sanders told The Wall Street Journal that he hoped the investigation into the former secretary of state’s use of a private email server would “proceed unimpeded.”
Sanders pushed back, calling the accusations of subtle attacks against Clinton as being little more than a media narrative.
“If I were to start viciously attacking Hillary Clinton, it would be all over the front pages of the paper,” Sanders said on “Meet the Press.” “But I don’t do that. I mean, I happen to respect and like Hillary Clinton. So I don’t get into personal attacks.”