Even Bernie Bros Are Upset With Sanders’ Comment On Poverty

"Just because I'm white doesn't mean I have everything handed to me."

Bernie Sanders fans cheer at a press conference. — REUTERS
Mar 07, 2016 at 8:01 AM ET

Bernie Sanders alienated even some of his most committed fans when he said during Sunday night’s Democratic debate that white Americans don’t know what it’s like to be poor.

“When you are white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto, you don’t know what it’s like to be poor,” he said, answering a question about his racial blind spots.

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The remark inspired an onslaught of a criticism across Twitter and Reddit, with more than 11,000 tweets talking about poor whites during the debate, Vocativ found. Some slammed Sanders’ comment as not only offensive to whites but also to black Americans.

Bernie wasn’t even spared criticism in one his biggest bastion’s of online support: the /r/SandersForPresident subreddit. One user talked about his own experience as a poor, white American, adding: “I still support Bernie, but if this was the first thing I’d heard from/about him I wouldn’t give him another look and (would) write him off as another left wing looney who thinks whites are the devil.”

Another Reddit thread discussing the incident was deleted, but not before one user expressed concern over some people’s belief that Sanders “can do no wrong.”

It’s unclear how the comment could impact Sanders’ image among voters—particularly white Americans who have largely turned out for Sanders—in the long-term. American Community Survey data shows that more than one in ten white Americans—an estimated 12.8 percent—live below the poverty level nationwide, more than the percentage of Asian Americans.

The percentage is even higher in Michigan, where the debate was held on Sunday night. An estimated 13.3 percent of white Americans in the state live below the poverty level, according to the data.

Still, a lot less white Americans live below the poverty level compared to other racial demographics. Across the U.S., 27.3. percent of African Americans live below it. That number is even higher for American Indians and Alaska Natives, at 28.8, the data shows.