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Sanders calls Bill Clinton's behavior 'deplorable'

Despite vowing to run "an issue-oriented campaign," the Vermont senator managed to criticize the extramarital affair of his chief rival’s husband.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders attempted to take the high road when asked during Sunday night’s primary debate in Charleston, South Carolina, about the extramarital affair of his chief rival’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, saying such questions “annoy” him.

In practically the same breath, however, the Vermont senator also managed to work in a dig.

“Yes, his behavior was deplorable,” Sanders said, referring to Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. “Have I ever once said a word about that issue? No I have not.”

Of course, that’s not really true. Last week, Sanders told an Iowa town hall that the former president’s behavior was “totally, totally, totally disgraceful and unacceptable,” prompting NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell to ask Sunday whether he regretted the remark.

“That question annoys me,” Sanders lamented. “I cannot walk down the street without being told how much I have to attack Secretary [Hillary] Clinton … I have avoided doing that. I’m trying to run an issue-oriented campaign.”

Mitchell continued to press him, saying he didn’t have to answer the question in those terms.

“If I don’t answer, it’s another front-page story,” Sanders said. He concluded by vowing “to debate Secretary Clinton and Gov. [Martin] O’Malley on the issues facing the American people, not Bill Clinton’s personal behavior.”

Clinton, who was standing next to him, said nothing the entire time. Moments earlier, she praised her husband’s leadership on the economy in the ‘90s and said she would ask him for his ideas and advice were she to become the next president.

“I’ll start at the kitchen table,” she said when asked if she would give her husband a formal role in her administration. “We’ll see how it goes from there.”