GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — While Sen. Bernie Sanders is known for rarely straying from his core issues of campaign finance reform and income inequality, some of his surrogates do not always stick to script.
A handful of the high-profile endorsers who have hit the trail in support of the Vermont senator’s presidential bid have gotten blowback for remarks that sometimes veer off message — attacking Hillary Clinton’s campaign or the candidate herself in highly personal terms.
The most recent example came from acclaimed actor Tim Robbins, known for such roles as Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption.” While introducing Sanders at a rally Monday, Robbins implied that a win in South Carolina’s Democratic primary is not worth very much.
“Winning South Carolina in a Democratic primary is about as significant as winning Guam!” proclaimed Robbins, downplaying former Clinton’s large victory in that key early primary state.
“No Democrat is going to win South Carolina in the general election,” Robbins continued, “Why do these victories have so much significance?”
The backlash was swift.
Jamie Harrison, the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party quickly tweeted at the actor and activist, saying he was happy to discuss his party’s significance with him.
“SC is home to hard working folks battling poverty. Your words just told them they don’t matter!” Harrison wrote. He later added the comments “pissed me off!”
Even a delegate from Guam has spoken out about the comments.
Robbins also praised his fellow Sanders supporters for not having “gotten in line” like “sheep” behind Clinton.
This was not the first time a Sanders surrogate has drifted from the campaign’s official position.
Last week, at a Sanders rally in New York City’s South Bronx neighborhood, actress and singer Rosario Dawson went after Clinton on one of the primary issues the Sanders campaign has tried to avoid: The ongoing controversy over Clinton’s private email server as secretary of state.
“Well, yes, she is under FBI investigation, thank you,” said Dawson cheekily to cheers adding that Clinton is “about to be interviewed.”
When confronted later with these remarks on CNN, Sanders emphasized that his campaign has resisted going after his opponent on “her FBI investigation” or “the Clinton foundation money.”
Sanders added, “We have many, many surrogates who say many, many things. Many of these surrogates do not agree with everything I say. And I do not agree with every approach and everything that they say. And that’s the simple reality.”
In another incident at a February Georgia rally, rapper and Sanders supporter Killer Mike stirred controversy when he quoted a feminist activist insisting that a having a “uterus” does not qualify one to be president.
Sanders defended Killer Mike, telling reporters that “people should not be voting for candidates based on their gender, but based on what they believe. I think that makes sense.”
Actress and Sanders supporter Susan Sarandon was also hammered for a similar comment in the form of a tweet asserting she does not “vote with [her] vagina.” More recently, Sarandon told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that a Trump victory might be preferable to a Clinton win in November — a comment she seemed to walk back later under a hail of criticism. “I would never support Trump for any reason,” she said on Twitter.
Other candidates have also faced scrutiny when their surrogates have gone off message.
Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, a Clinton supporter, drew criticism for saying ahead of the New Hampshire primary, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support each other.” Albright ultimately wrote a New York Times op-ed walking back the comment.
Former President Bill Clinton has not been immune this cycle either.
He reportedly said in late March that people should vote for his wife, “if you believe we’ve finally come to the point where we can put the awful legacy of the last eight years behind us, and the seven before that,” appearing to criticize the administration of President Barack Obama.
The Clinton campaign pushed back saying that he had been pointing to Republican obstructionism rather than the current president.
Sarandon and Robbins, who were a couple for 23 years before splitting in 2009, both stumped for then presidential candidate John Edwards in 2008.