(USA Features) Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pushed back Monday on criticism over his support for some things Cuban dictator Fidel Castro did while in office, while also praising Communist Chinese leaders.
During a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday night, Sanders praised Castro’s “massive literacy program” and appeared to dismiss concerns offered by interviewer Anderson Cooper that the dictator also killed an imprisoned political adversaries.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but, you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Sanders said. “You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”
Then, during a Monday night CNN town hall, Sanders attempted to bolster his logic by claiming that Communist China took “more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history.”
“They’re attacking your comment as absolutely unacceptable, singing the praises of a murderous tyrant,” said moderator Chris Cuomo.
“When Castro first came to power … you know what he did?” Sanders asked. “He initiated a major literacy program. There was a lot of folks in Cuba at that point who were illiterate. And he formed a literacy brigade that went out and helped people learn to write. I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing.”
“I have been extremely consistent and critical of all authoritarian regimes all over the world including Cuba, including Nicaragua, including Saudi Arabia, including China, including Russia,” he continued.
“I happen to believe in democracy, not authoritarianism. But you know, you can take China as another example. China is an authoritarian country becoming more and more authoritarian,” he added.
“But can anyone deny, I mean the facts are clear, that they have taken more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history. Do I get criticized because I say that? That’s the truth. So that is a fact. End of discussion,” he said.
Cuomo pushed back by wondering why one would give a dictator like Castro “a pat on the back for anything.”
“Truth is truth, all right?” Sanders said.