The Slatest

Sanders: “I Never Expected in My Life, as an American, to See a Swastika at a Major Political Rally”

Sanders walks outside
Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally at Calder Plaza in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Sunday. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders expressed shock and disbelief Sunday when he was asked about the man who unfurled a Nazi flag at one of his rallies on Thursday. “Obviously, it is unspeakable. It is disgusting. It is something, I got to tell you, I never expected in my life, as an American, to see a swastika at a major political rally,” the Vermont senator said on CNN’s State of the Union. “It’s horrible.”

The man unfurled a flag with the image of a swastika while Sanders, who is Jewish, was speaking at a rally in Phoenix. Video from the event shows that the crowd quickly began booing when the flag was unfurled, and someone nearby ripped the flag out of his hands. The man was then kicked out of the event. Sanders said that when he turned around to see why the crowd was booing, the flag was no longer there.

“He was behind me. And I was speaking to the crowd, and I saw crowds booing, and I turned around, I didn’t quite see what it was. I learned about it right after I left the stage,” Sanders said. “The idea that there was a swastika, a symbol of everything that this country stands against—we lost 400,000 people fighting that symbol, fighting Nazism. Six million Jews were killed, other people were killed. The most devastating war in the history of humanity.” Sanders’ extended family in Poland died during the Holocaust, something he learned about in detail when he appeared on the PBS show Finding Your Roots.

Former Vice President Joe Biden condemned the move in a tweet in which he made reference to how Sanders could be the country’s first Jewish president. “I don’t care who you’re supporting, attacks like this against a man who could be the first Jewish President are disgusting and beyond the pale,” Biden wrote. “Hatred and bigotry have no place in America.”