Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders would “shoot every third person on Wall Street” if they could, former president Bill Clinton remarked on Friday. The remark came as part of a larger defense of his wife Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“One of the few things I really haven’t enjoyed about this primary: I think it’s fine that all these young students have been so enthusiastic for her opponent and [he] sounds so good: ‘Just shoot every third person on Wall Street and everything will be fine,'” he said in a stump speech given in Fort Washington, New York, according to Politico.
Clinton’s comments were widely seen as an inflammatory attack at the youthful supporters of Bernie Sanders, as well as the Vermont Senator’s focus on blaming financial institutions, income inequality and the greed of the billionaire class for America’s stagnating economy. The speech was given at a small, 30-minute event of Hillary Clinton supporters held in the courtyard of a hospital.
According to U.S. News, Bill Clinton devoted most of his speech “to intricate details of his wife’s plans to alleviate student debt, incentivize cleaner energy sources and train more skilled workers for high-paying jobs,” but he couldn’t resist wandering into commentary on the electoral battle royale between former Secretary Clinton and Sanders. Clinton also remarked on fewer people working on Wall Street since the Dodd-Frank Act, which he used as an example of Hillary’s economic policies being effective.
“The inequality problem is rooted in the shareholder-first mentality and the absence of training for the jobs of tomorrow,” Clinton added in defense of the regulatory reforms of Dodd-Frank, according to CNN. Clinton was standing in for his wife, who was busy at a campaign jaunt in California.
After the event, Clinton seemed to back-paddle on the harsh comments at the Sander’s backers, saying it was meant as a joke.
“It’s a joke,” the former president told MSNBC. “It’s a total joke. It’s meant to point out that’s the unilateral explanation for everything that’s wrong with America. You know, we all need to lighten up here, have a little sense of humor.”
Sanders himself was apparently not impressed with Clinton’s seeming apology, and fired back with his official Twitter account on Friday, tweeting, “We should be encouraging young people to get involved in politics, not disparaging them. This seems to be a pattern.”
Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver echoed Sanders’ sentiments in an interview with CNN‘s Anderson Cooper, saying the Democratic front-runner should be careful about how her campaign refers to young voters.
“For people who are sort of in the Democratic establishment to disparage those young people, their sincerity and their knowledge, really is not a very smart strategy to try and build the Democratic Party,” Weaver said.
Bill Clinton’s comments came on the heels of a very contentious and aggressive Democratic debate in Brooklyn on Thursday night, during which many blows were traded on the candidate’s economic records. Sanders, in particular, criticized Clinton heavily for taking Wall Street money in the form of high-paid speeches to major financial institutions.
Sanders also appeared to needle Clinton when she claimed that she “called out” Wall Street during the Democratic presidential debate.
“Secretary Clinton called them out,” Sanders said, according to The Hill. “Oh my gosh, they must have been really crushed by this. Was that before or after you received huge sums of money by giving speaking engagements?”
A spokesperson for the Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment on former president Clinton’s remarks.
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