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The senator’s supporters said the remark was published out of context.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was forced to clarify controversial comments he made in an interview published Thursday that were blasted as “excusing racism” by pundits and internet users.

Speaking to the Daily Beast while discussing the unsuccessful midterm contests of Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia, both Black Democrats, Sanders described white people not voting for candidates of color on the basis of race as “not necessarily racist.”

“I think you know there are a lot of white folks out there who are not necessarily racist who felt uncomfortable for the first time in their lives about whether or not they wanted to vote for an African-American,” he said. “I think next time around by the way it will be a lot easier for them to do that.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Sanders is quoted praising Gillum as “a fantastic politician” who “ran a great campaign” and “had to take on some of the most blatant and ugly racism that we have seen in many many years.” However, it was the first quote that the Daily Beast tweeted out when boosting the interview, which prompted outrage online and in the media sphere.

Twitter users quickly pointed out that not voting for a candidate on the basis of their race is, in fact, the very definition of racist.

Meanwhile, Sanders communications director Josh Miller-Lewis pushed back on the accusations, calling the article “click-bait” and tweeting an audio recording of the portion of the interview quoted.

The senator’s supporters also demanded that the Daily Beast amend the story’s headline to include this.

In aiming to provide context and clarity, Sanders released a statement explaining that he was blaming Gillum’s Republican rival Ron DeSantis, Abrams’ rival Brian Kemp and President Donald Trump for pushing divisive racist campaigns.

Some commentators appeared willing to take this explanation “in good faith” but emphasized that, whether racist or just misunderstood, the comment remains both bizarre and wrong.

David Gilmour

David Gilmour

David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology. He previously covered civil liberties, crime, and politics for Vice.