During his 1972 gubernatorial run, Senator Bernie Sanders told high-school students that the U.S. had committed acts in its war with Vietnam that were “almost as bad as what Hitler did.”
An article in the Rutland, Vermont, newspaper, The Rutland Herald, reported on the comments, made while Sanders was campaigning for governor as a member of the Liberty Union party. The article was first unearthed by the Washington Free Beacon.
The North Vietnamese “are not my enemy,” Sanders told a class of ninth graders in Rutland while on the campaign trail. “They’re a very, very poor people. Some of them don’t have shoes. They eat rice when they can get it. And they have been fighting for the freedom of their country for 25 years. They can hardly fight back.”
The American death toll from the Vietnam War was over 58,000. The Herald reported that students pushed back against Sanders’s support for amnesty for draft evaders, saying it wouldn’t be fair to the parents of soldiers killed in the fighting.
Sanders also outlined other positions that may sound familiar to today’s voters, including increasing the minimum wage and availability of low-income housing, as well as increased access to dental care. He also charged that the Democratic Party was too beholden to large corporations.
The Vermont senator received around one percent of the vote in that election. Sanders is currently the strongest presidential candidate from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, and has polled ahead of moderate Joe Biden in various Iowa and New Hampshire surveys.
Establishment Democrats have been worried by Sanders’s rise and durability throughout the primary. The senator has relied on an enthusiastic base of younger progressive voters, and has received strong grassroots financial support.