During the latest Democratic presidential debate, candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont slammed the GOP slate of contenders as mentally ill. His wisecrack drew laughs from the crowd but some criticism from Americans suffering from mental illness (video below).
On March 6, Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traded political blows during a CNN-moderated debate in Flint, Michigan, CNN reports.
Taking questions from an audience that had largely been impacted by the lead-poisoning water crisis, the two candidates were often locked in tense arguments over trade, race and campaign finance.
Their exchange got heated several times, but the two Democratic candidates ultimately deflated the tension between them by slamming the Republican presidential candidates as more divisive and bombastic.
“You know, we have our differences and we get into vigorous debate about issues,” Clinton said. “But compare the substance of this debate to what you saw on the Republican stage last week.”
The former Secretary was referring to the Fox News-moderated GOP debate on March 3. The candidates’ performances have since been criticized as immature and lacking substance.
From business mogul Donald Trump reassuring viewers about the size of his manhood to the candidates calling each other names and unintelligibly shouting over each other, USA Today writer Rem Rieder called the display “pure mud wrestling.”
“Once presidential debates were largely civic exercises, sessions to be watched dutifully to learn about the policy positions of the rivals … this time around, however, the Republican primary debates have taken on the aura of reality TV shows,” Rieder wrote in a March 5 op-ed piece.
Sanders, following up on Clinton’s slam against the Republicans’ previous performance, cracked wise.
“You know, we are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money in mental health,” Sanders said. “And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to invest in that!”
The audience erupted into laughter, but some viewers did not find the senator’s joke funny. Several mental health activists voiced their disapproval, The Washington Post reports.
“I have a mental disability,” Amanda Levitt tweeted on March 6. “Racism (etc) is not a mental health problem. It’s a hate problem.”
“Dear Bernie Sanders,” Annie Kehler tweeted that same day. “My mental health is not a joke. It does not make me a racist, judgmental, sexist person. That was a despicable comment.”