BuzzFeed News

Reporting To You


This Is How Bernie Sanders Defines “Negative Attack”

The question of what is and is not negative has defined the opening days of the New Hampshire primary race proper.

Last updated on February 4, 2016, at 10:30 a.m. ET

Posted on February 4, 2016, at 10:30 a.m. ET

Alex Wong / Getty Images

CONCORD, New Hampshire — What’s negative?

On Wednesday, Bernie Sanders answered a number of questions about the latest Hillary Clinton claim that Sanders was breaking his oft-repeated pledge not to go negative in the Democratic primary. In various releases, TV appearances, tweets, and online videos, the Clinton campaign has said he’s broken that pledge since the polls tightened.

Tuesday brought more of the same. A top Clinton spokesperson accused Sanders of being “patronizing much?” after he said Clinton is a progressive on “some days.” (Sanders then referred to Clinton saying she was happy to say “I plead guilty” to when she’d been “accused of being kind of moderate and center.”)

Sanders told MSNBC Wednesday morning that “I've got a real problem with people, you know, receiving, for an hour's work, to earn $200,000 plus” when asked about the speaking fees Clinton charged. On Wednesday afternoon, Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, took to the same network. “I'm disappointed to see Bernie Sanders making these kind of negative personal attacks,” he said.

The Clinton campaign has been pretty upfront about what it considers negative — and what it considers a violation of Sanders’s pledge. It’s been less clear what Sanders thinks is a violation of his pledge and what he considers a “negative attack.”

BuzzFeed News asked him about it at a press conference here early Wednesday evening.

“You all know what a negative ad is,” he said. “It's when you rip apart somebody's character, you do all that. I've never done that and I never will do that.”

He said his commercials don’t mention Clinton directly, keeping him on the more positive side of the opaque sharp-contrast-vs-negative attack line.

“I have never run in this campaign and ad which mentioned Hillary Clinton. There is no image of Hillary Clinton,” he said. “Now I know I was attacked because I said that Wall Street has significant influence over the political process in America. Let me repeat: Wall Street has significant influence over the political process in America. That happens to be true. So if anyone thinks if I make a simple straight-forward statement that that is negative, I'm sorry. It happens to be true.”

It was a Sanders ad about Wall Street that the Clinton campaign said really violated Sanders’ pledge.

Sanders was quick to say that Clinton has run at least one negative ad against him, however.

“They ran an ad in Iowa that said Bernie Sanders — no, it didn't say Bernie Sanders. My name was not mentioned,” he said. “The implication was I was attacking Planned Parenthood. I have 100% lifetime voting record for Planned Parenthood. I think Planned Parenthood is one of the most significant organizations in the country.”

“The other implication in there that I was protecting the gun lobby,” he added. “Really? I have a D-Minus voting record from the NRA. Those are kind of negative ads.”

In summary, Sanders thinks this ad is negative:

And this ad is not:

View this video on YouTube