Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders continued his campaign stop in Philadelphia Thursday by fending off criticisms of his questioning whether Hillary Clinton is qualified to be president.
At a news conference with union workers at the AFL-CIO convention Thursday morning, a day after he made the comments to a crowd of more than 13,000 at Temple University, Sanders tried to avoid questions about “campaign gossip” and criticized the media.
“Anybody want to ask me a question of importance to American working people? … Any questions on the needs of middle class America?” he asked, before stating, “The media is not particularly interested in why the middle class declines, why the income disparity — that’s not what you’re interested in.”
He went on to say that Clinton questioned his qualifications for the job before he made the same questions about her during the Temple rally.
“That was what was thrown at me,” Sanders said, adding, “If they ask that about me, we have the right to ask if she is qualified to be president.”
He went on to read a CNN report that the Clinton campaign’s strategy against Sanders was “Disqualify him, defeat him and unify the party later,” then pointed out that Clinton voted for the Iraq war, supported “every trade agreement that hurt working people,” and raises money through her “super PAC.”
Clinton, campaigning outside Yankee stadium in the Bronx, responded to Sanders’ questioning of her qualifications Thursday morning by saying: “I don’t know why he’s saying that, but I will take Bernie Sanders over Donald Trump or Ted Cruz anytime. Let’s keep our eye on what’s at stake in this election.”
Later Thursday morning, Sanders delivered a speech to the AFL-CIO where he hammered home on his messages about opposing inequality, fighting to change the economy and to “rebuild” the middle class.
“Today the simple truth is that if we are going to rebuild the American middle class, we have to understand that we are living in a rigged economy,” Sanders told the AFL-CIO union, which is holding its national convention in Philly.
“We have seen grotesque levels of income and wealth inequality,” he said, claiming that 47 million people in the country live in poverty, and adding that the top 20 richest Americans have more wealth than the 150 million poorest.
“Now the media, they don’t talk about this. The fact is that for the last 30 to 40 years, there has been a massive redistribution of wealth,” Sanders said. “The problem is it’s gone in the wrong direction. … Almost all new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent.”
Sanders pledged to press for a $15 minimum wage nationwide, said he would fight for “pay equity” for women, and despite praising Obamacare, said he plans to reform it if elected.
“Despite the success of the ACA [Affordable Care Act], count me as someone who will fight vigorously to end the so-called Cadillac tax,” Sanders said, referring to the controversial 40 percent tax on employer health-care plans that provide more than $10,200 of coverage for individuals or $27,500 for families, set to take effect in 2020.
Sanders also called for infrastructure investing, citing the Flint water crisis, and for an expansion of Social Security, before taking another dig at the media.
“The media can turn off their cameras because they’re not going to report this anyhow,” he said, before going on to claim some people on Social Security live off $11,000 to $12,000 a year and pledging to expand the program if elected.
“If I am elected president, we are together going to create an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent,” Sanders said. “It can happen if we are prepared to stand up together, not let the Donald Trumps of the world divide us up, and when we stand together, and when we have a vision that says we have a government that works for all of us, there is nothing, nothing, nothing that we cannot accomplish.”