Ben Carson has an unlikely defender: Bernie Sanders -- yes, really

Sanders stays remarkably on message even after a similar defense of Hillary Clinton's emails may have aided her

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published November 9, 2015 2:02PM (EST)

  (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Asked about Ben Carson's seemingly unraveling personal narrative, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders argued that Carson's interviews about his past have been "interesting" but that such media scrutiny is ultimately unfair because it distracts from a discussion on policy.

During an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" this weekend, Sanders was asked by host Chuck Todd about his perspective on Carson's current struggles having gone through his own bout of media scrutiny as a longtime democratic socialist.

"You have seen some people leak out stuff you wrote 30 and 40 years ago, is this fair game?" Todd asked Sanders.

"No," Sanders quickly replied.

"And look, I listened to the interviews with Dr. Carson. And it's interesting. But you know what, Chuck? The American people want to know why the middle class of this country is disappearing, why we have 47 million people living in poverty, why we have massive income and wealth inequality" Sanders asserted, refocusing the conversation away from Carson's controversial past to Carson's extreme rhetoric and policy prescriptions.

"Look at Dr. Carson, to the best of my knowledge, this man does not believe that climate change is caused by human activity. This man wants to abolish Medicare, impacting tens of millions of Seniors. And this man wants to give huge tax breaks to the rich!"

"I think it might be a better idea, I know it's a crazy idea, but maybe we focus on the issues impacting the American people and what candidates are saying rather than just spending so much time exploring their lives of 30 or 40 years ago," Sanders insisted.

"And I think the reason that so many people are turned off to the political process has a lot to do with the fact that we're not talking about the real issues impacting real people," he argued. 

Sanders' continued insistence that the presidential campaigns, debates and media coverage be focused on the issues affecting Americans is interesting given past criticism that his remark during last month's Democratic presidential debate that "the American people are sick and tired" of hearing about Hillary Clinton's private email account served to shield the frontrunner from growing criticism, buoying her campaign while blunting Sanders' own momentum.

Watch the interview, via NBC News:

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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2016 Democratic Primary 2016 Republican Primary Ben Carson Bernie Sanders Meet The Press Video