Bernie Sanders (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

Bernie Sanders' messaging problem: I don't think I need to apologize to #BlackLivesMatter

The Vermont senator insisted the apology came from his staff and was sent out "without me knowledge"


Scott Eric Kaufman
August 17, 2015 6:22PM (UTC)

Independent Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders continued to send contradictory messages to the members of the #BlackLivesMatter movement on "Meet the Press" Sunday.

Host Chuck Todd asked him about an email obtained by BuzzFeed in which Sanders' Director of African-American Outreach, Marcus Ferrell, apologized that "it took our campaign so long to officially reach out."

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"We wanted to let you know that we hear you, we want to do a better job speaking out on the issues, and as a sitting U.S. Senator, possibly introducing legislation and making a constitutional change. We would like to know what YOU would like to see happen," it continued, adding that the campaign has introduced a "racial justice on Sanders' official website. "We are hoping to establish a REAL space for REAL dialog between the folks on this email and our campaign."

But on "Meet the Press," Sanders insisted that he hadn't authorized the sending of this email, nor did he believe it necessary to apologize to the #BlackLivesMatter movement because his campaign is going to be inclusive, "reaching out" to advocates of all progressive causes, including labor rights, senior citizen care, healthcare reform, and racial justice.

But "let me be very clear," he said, "the issue that they’re raising is a very, very important one, and there’s no candidate for president that would be stronger in fighting against institutional racism and, by the way, reforming a broken criminal justice system."

Appealing as his big-tent rhetoric is, it risks alienating potential members of his coalition by sounding too much like the odious conservative responses to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, e.g. #AllLivesMatter, which as some have noted, would have responded to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" with an #AllDreamsMatter Twitter campaign.

Watch the entire exchange via "Meet the Press" below.

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Scott Eric Kaufman

Scott Eric Kaufman is an assistant editor at Salon. He taught at a university, but then thought better of it. Follow him at @scottekaufman or email him at skaufman@salon.com.

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