Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) staunchly denied claims he wanted a primary challenge to President Barack Obama in 2012.
“This is media stuff,” Sanders told “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos in an interview on Sunday.
“The idea that I’ve worked against Barack Obama is categorically false,” he added on the ABC Sunday show.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sanders’ Democratic primary rival, had questioned on Friday Sanders’ support for Obama during the 2012 election.
“When President Obama was running for re-election, I was glad to step up and work very hard for him while Sen. Sanders was trying to find someone to primary him,” O’Malley said at an MSNBC candidates’ forum on Friday.
Though Sanders never said directly that he would have supported a challenger over Obama — who Sanders often praises in stump speeches and interviews — Sanders was critical of the president in the lead-up to the 2012 election.
Sanders criticised Obama for being “weak” in negotiations with Republicans. And on several occasions, Sanders suggested that a primary challenge to Obama from the left could have energised the progressive base.
“I think one of the reasons that the president has been able to move so far to the right is that there is no primary opposition to him, and I think it would do this country a good deal of service if people started thinking about candidates out there to begin contrasting what is a progressive agenda as opposed to what Obama is doing,” Sanders said on radio host Thom Hartman’s show in 2011.
“If a progressive Democrat wants to run, I think it would enliven the debate, raise some issues and people have a right to do that,” Sanders said then. “I’ve been asked whether I am going to do that. I’m not. I don’t know who is, but in a democracy, it’s not a bad idea to have different voices out there.”
On Sunday, Sanders acknowledged that though he and Obama have disagreed on some issues, he ultimately has been satisfied with Obama’s job performance.
“I think under incredible Republican obstructionism, Obama and Joe Biden have moved this country forward in a way that leaves us a hell of a lot better than when Bush was in office,” Sanders said.
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