Bernie Sanders Defends His Bill Clinton Comments After Andrea Mitchell Surprisingly Pushes Back

In Sunday night's Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders defended himself for how he responded to the resurgence of allegations against Bill Clinton, which were being brought up as criticisms of Hillary Clinton's campaign. Moderator Andrea Mitchell told Sanders: "You didn't have to answer the question that way," in reference to the his comments earlier this month, in which he called Bill Clinton's sexual history "totally disgraceful and unacceptable." But Sanders argued that the debate should remain focused on the issues, rather than on candidates' and their families' personal pasts.

Mitchell asked Sanders if he regretted his comments about Bill, but Sanders explained that he was asked a question, so he answered it. That's when the moderator pushed back, saying that he could have answered differently. But Sanders replied that it would have been worse not to answer at all: "Then if I don't answer it, then it's another front page. Yes, his behavior was deplorable. Have I ever once said a word about that issue? No, I have not. I'm going to debate Secretary Clinton, Governor O'Malley on the issues facing the American people, not Bill Clinton's personal behavior." Clinton, Sanders' main liberal opponent, nodded her head in agreement as he once again tried to refocus the debate on political issues and policies.

His response was actually very smart, as he once again criticized Bill while saying that he didn't want to criticize him. Sanders managed to assert his disapproval of Bill's actions, distance himself from the issue, and appear to run a clean campaign all at once. It was a pretty genius move, actually.

In Sanders' original statement in question, he asserted that he didn't care about Bill's sexual misconduct. "Look, Hillary Clinton is not Bill Clinton," Sanders said. "But what Bill Clinton did was totally, totally, totally disgraceful and unacceptable. But I am running against Hillary Clinton, not Bill Clinton." Mitchell was right — he could have omitted the insulting part. But Sanders has stood by his mission to keep the race centered on discussions that really matter.

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Clinton's response seemed to indicate that she appreciated Sanders refusal to bash her for her husband's actions. The moment was very similar to Sanders' outburst in the October debate, in which he told Clinton: "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails." Clinton was appreciative of this, just as she was glad that he didn't want to use Bill's past against her.