Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) kicked off his presidential campaign last week but on Monday was unable to name any legislation he’s passed to help black Americans.
On "The Breakfast Club" radio show, co-host Charlemagne tha God asked Sanders what he had accomplished for black Americans, and Sanders answered by touting his activism as a student with the Congress of Racial Equality and his presence at the March on Washington. He also pointed out he supported Rev. Jesse Jackson for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988.
"I was one of the few white public officials who supported Jesse Jackson for president of the United States, and he ended up winning Vermont," Sanders said. "I think if you look at my record in terms of civil rights and other areas, you’ll find that it is consistently a very, very strong record."
"Any legislation you can point to?" asked Charlemagne tha God.
After a pause, Sanders said he’d passed laws that help working people generally.
"Well, legislation that benefits African Americans, yeah, we—but not specifically—we passed legislation that benefits working people, sure," Sanders said. He did not cite any specifics.
Asked about putting a person of color on his presidential ticket, Sanders said he couldn’t be sure.
"If you had to pick a person of color to be your running mate, who would it be?" Charlemagne tha God asked.
"Too early to say," Sanders replied. "Much too early."
Sanders has come under fire for being an old, white, male candidate at a time when the party is trying to expand its female and minority representation. Asked about this during an interview in February, Sanders echoed Martin Luther King, Jr. by calling for candidates not to be judged based on their skin color.
"We have got to look at candidates, you know, not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or their gender and not by their age," Sanders said on Vermont radio. "I mean, I think we have got to try to move us toward a nondiscriminatory society which looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for."
Many on the left blasted him for this comment, such as Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, who called it "simply wrong." As a progressive leader, Sanders has generally not faced attacks from the left, but when he has, it has often been on the grounds that he is a white man.
The Democratic presidential field has already swelled to more than a dozen candidates, with most of them being racial minorities or women.