CNN's late-night hosts on Tuesday marveled that some Democratic candidates are "way out there," now supporting enfranchising jailed terrorists.
Hosts Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon were speaking during their usual handoff between their two shows, when they took a moment to weigh in on the state of the Democratic candidates for president in 2020.
Cuomo said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), though not even a Democrat, has set the progressive agenda for Democratic hopefuls. "Top 2020 Democratic hopefuls have been following Bernie Sanders's lead on many progressive policy stances," he said.
Cuomo worried about the extremes to which candidates might follow the Vermont senator. He pointed to Sanders's recent support for letting murderers vote from jail.
"Last night, Senator Sanders said that people in prison, even terrorists like the Boston bomber, have the right to vote while they're imprisoned," Cuomo said.
Lemon expressed shock at the position. "Uh, I'm stunned, as you can see," he said. "You can see on our faces and the responses."
"Listen, I'm glad we asked the question," Lemon said. "I think it's going to be an issue."
He predicted it was going to be a campaign issue for those who had said "yes, they should be able to vote even the most awful people among us," or those who had said "we should have a conversation about it."
During a CNN town hall Monday, Harvard student Anne Carlstein asked Sanders about his support for voting rights for those convicted of terrorism, murder, or sexual assault.
"I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy," Sanders said. "Yes, even for terrible people."
Sanders described a vision of a "vibrant" democracy, in which everyone voted. "Even if they are in jail, they're paying their price to society, but that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our Democracy," he said.
Sanders has previously expressed support for the position.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) dodged the question when asked this week. "While they're incarcerated, I think that’s something we can have more conversation about," she said.
Fellow 2020 candidates Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D., Ind.) both said this week that they oppose prison voting. Swalwell went further, saying those put away for violent crimes should "never" regain the right to vote.
Sen. Kamala Harris initially sidestepped the question on Monday, pointing to her support for ex-felons voting. "I have been long an advocate of making sure that the formerly incarcerated are not denied a right to vote," she said.
When asked whether that extended to "people who are convicted, in prison, like the Boston Marathon bomber, on death row, people who are convicted of sexual assault," Harris answered with wording similar to Warren's.
"I think we should have that conversation," Harris said.
Cuomo noted that Harris had raced to retract her earlier view. "Do I think that people who commit murder, people who are terrorists should be deprived of their rights? Yeah, I do," she said. "I’m a prosecutor."
Lemon was unimpressed with the reversal. "Well, last night that's not what she said," he said. "She can revise her position and change her mind, but I think that is going to be an issue."
Cuomo raised the specter of the radicalization of the Democratic party. "You know what it frames? It frames the proposition for voters as: these people are way out there in the Democratic Party. Wow have they gone far left."