Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders spent a portion of a Monday night town hall tip-toeing around questions regarding his stance on reparations to the descendants of enslaved Black Americans.
Sanders, who recently entered the race for the 2020 presidential election, made his case to voters during a town hall hosted by CNN this week, where he repeatedly dodged questions about reparations. When an audience member asked the senator his position on the hot-button issue, he asserted there were “massive disparities” in society that must be addressed.
“There is legislation I like introduced by Rep. Jim Clyburn,” Sanders began. “It’s called the 10-20-30 legislation, which focuses federal resources in a very significant way on distressed communities — communities that have high levels of poverty. I think we have to do everything we can to end institutional racism in this country. It’s not acceptable.”
The senator then promised to pour additional resources into disadvantaged communities and improve the lives of those “hurt by the legacy of slavery.”
“So what is your position specifically on reparations?” CNN anchor and moderator Wolf Blitzer interjected. “I ask the question because [Sen.] Elizabeth Warren, [former HUD Secretary] Julian Castro, they’ve indicated they want — ”
“What does that mean?” Sanders replied, cutting him off. “What do they mean? I’m not sure anyone is very clear.”
Blitzer then read exactly what Warren and Castro have said about reparations and their reasons for supporting the idea. In a quote to the New York Times last week, Warren (D-Mass.) asserted that African-American families have had a “much steeper hill to climb” and added that,” we must confront the dark history of slavery and government-sanctioned discrimination in this country that has had many consequences including undermining the ability of Black families to build wealth in America for generations.”
California Democrat Sen. Kamala Harris has also said she supports reparations for slave descendants.
Sanders said he agreed with Warren’s stance, but stopped short of saying whether he would support reparations. Their back and forth continued, as Blitzer refused to let the senator off the hook.
“So would you support —” Blitzer asked again before Sanders cut in once more.
“Read what she said, what does that mean?” he snapped. “It means, I think — I don’t want to put words into her mouth — what I said.”
Blitzer then pointed to Sanders’ previous stance on the issue, when he said that reparations would be “divisive.”
“Again, it depends on what the word means,” the presidential hopeful argued. “And I know that you don’t want to be divisive tonight.”
Watch more in the video below.