Bernie Sanders made a direct appeal to supporters in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," imploring them not to engage in violence after a week in which protesters — some apparently loyal to the Democratic underdog — attacked Donald Trump backers in California.
"Any person who is a Bernie Sanders supporter, please, do not in any way, shape or form engage in violence," the senator from Vermont said.
Sanders emphasized that the bad actors represent a tiny fraction of the "millions and millions of people who are supporting us." But the candidate's plea appeared to be an assertion of influence over his supporters' behavior — a contrast to his response last month to an outburst at the Nevada Democratic convention.
Unhappy with the disqualification of pro-Sanders delegates who had failed to meet a registration deadline, some Sanders supporters defaced the party's state headquarters and sent threatening messages to Chairwoman Roberta Lange.
Here is how Bernie's NV supporters protested outside state Democratic HQ today -- by scrawling messages on the bldg. pic.twitter.com/Fgh78ZtZZV
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) May 15, 2016
Sanders issued a statement at the time saying his campaign "of course believes in non-violent change, and it goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals." But he also heaped criticism on party leaders, seemingly justifying the anger — if not the actions — of his backers.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) called Sanders's response "anything but acceptable."
Sanders rejected the complaint — and rejected Wasserman Schultz, endorsing her Democratic primary opponent in a Florida congressional race several days later. Nevertheless, he adopted a more forceful tone in the interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.
Here's the exchange:
TAPPER: I want to ask you about some of the violence we've seen by anti-Trump protesters against supporters of Trump. Some of these people who have been very violent have been seen with your signs, Bernie Sanders signs, chanting your name. Do you condemn the violence?
SANDERS: I condemn it, absolutely. And let's be very clear: We have millions and millions of people who are supporting us, and I want to make it clear that any person who is a Bernie Sanders supporter, please, do not in any way, shape or form engage in violence. That is absolutely not what this campaign is about.