Comedian Hannibal Buress Riles Up Bernie Bros on Rent Control

'It's kind of wild seeing young white kids get upset at you for owning property'

Hannibal Burress / Getty Images
November 4, 2019

Comedian Hannibal Buress, who dared challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I., Vt.) call for nationwide rent control, is waging war on "Bernie Bros."

When Buress refused to support Sanders's presidential campaign, citing the Vermont senator's old age as a stumbling block, Sanders supporters quickly suggested an ulterior motive—Buress's status as a property owner. Buress "lean[ed] into" the accusations in an attempt to rile up the "super sensitive" Bernie supporters.

"It's kind of wild seeing young white kids get upset at you for owning property," said Buress, who is black. "Can't I just think the motherf*****'s old, and that's that? Like, he, he's old! It ain't got nothing to do with [my] bank account… So, I lean into it, I started making some posts, and say, 'Ok, these people are super sensitive, we'll rile them up.'"

Buress's clash with Sanders supporters marks another example of the online badgering associated with those backing the Vermont senator. Campaign aides scrambled to "push their digital community to police itself and keep the Bros quiet" during Sanders's 2016 presidential run.

Buress triggered the wrath of the Bernie Bros through a string of tweets, in which he called Sanders "wrong" on rent control before asking his followers to donate to a property owners association and suggesting tenants tip their landlords "25% during holidays." Buress even announced new merchandise—a "shut up landlord" t-shirt released through

While Buress is not actually a landlord—he lists a three-unit Chicago apartment building he owns on Airbnb—Sanders supporters appeared to take his comments at face value and went on to attack the property owners association Buress jokingly directed donations towards.

Though the Illinois Rental Property Owners Association (IRPOA), characterized by Buress as a "landlords rights group," did not see a spike in donations after the comedian's tweet, the newfound attention did bring about a number of negative messages.

"The only thing we've received so far are immature messages through our e-mail, expressing anger towards us," IRPOA president Andrew Timms said. Timms went on to cite one message calling the IRPOA "parasites," another with "characters [used] to draw out a phallus," and a third consisting of "a donation of one penny, that was not funded, made in the name of Barron Trump."

After his slew of tweets, Buress clarified that he "[doesn't] even have a view on rent control" and called his tweet opposing Sanders's proposal "a little irresponsible." Though Buress's initial stance against federal rent control was made jokingly, an overwhelming majority of experts agree with him.

More than 80 percent of economists surveyed by the University of Chicago in 2012 found rent control to be bad policy, and a recent Council of Economic Advisers report found that in 11 metropolitan areas with housing regulations such as rent control, deregulation would reduce homelessness by an average of 31 percent.

"When the outstanding majority of economists, regardless of their political views, say rent control not only doesn't work, it's actually counterproductive for the stated goals, it's strange that people choose not to pay attention to that," said Timms. "These people who think rent control will make their lives better haven't done the research to find that it will actually hurt them, not just the people who own the real estate."