NBC’s Lauer Hits Socialist Sanders from the Left on Guns

In an interview with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday’s Today, co-host Matt Lauer worried that the socialist presidential candidate was out of step with “mainstream Democrats.” However, it was not because of Sanders’ radical left-wing views, but because he was not anti-gun enough.

Lauer grilled him: “You are Progressive across the board, except perhaps on the issue of guns. You've supported some reforms, but you also support legal immunity for gun manufacturers. You voted against the Brady Bill, which calls for background checks and five-day waiting periods. Do you think at this stage, in this day and age, that makes you a tough sell for many mainstream Democrats?”

Sanders professed his opposition to Second Amendment rights:

I don't and I'll tell you why, Matt. What people don't know is that in 1988, when I first ran for Congress, there were three candidates in the race. Two of them were supported by the gun groups, one of them, me, was not, and you know why? Because I said in that campaign, 1988, that I would vote to ban certain assault weapons. Two years later I kept my word. And by the way I have a D-minus voting record from the NRA and I have been strong in saying we have got to bring people together to end these horrific massacres that we're seeing and I think as a candidate coming from a state that has virtually no gun control at all I think I can do that.     

Moments later, Lauer did wonder how Sanders could possibly enact his far left agenda: “Let me talk about gridlock. People right now, Senator, are so frustrated with Washington. President Obama has had key elements of his agenda blocked by conservatives in Congress. You are to the left of President Obama. Why will you succeed in getting rid of gridlock where he can't?”

Fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie followed up by pointing out how Sanders’ political views were at odds with most Americans: “You call yourself a democratic socialist. In our last poll 60% of respondents said they were either comfortable or very comfortable with capitalism. You've said you are not a capitalist. I see those signs at your rallies, people say, ‘Join the revolution.’ What about those voters who don't think a revolution sounds exciting, they think it sounds scary?”

Sanders ranted:

Well, I think our job is to make people aware that programs like Social Security, Medicare, the national park system, which is a wonderful system, are publicly owned programs. And to also make people aware that we are the only major country on Earth, Savannah, that doesn't guarantee health care to all people as a right and that we don't have paid family and medical leave, that we do not make public colleges and universities tuition-free as many other countries do. So I think once we get these issues out and talk about creating a government and programs that work for ordinary people rather than just the very wealthy, I think more people will understand what we're talking about.

Here is a full transcript of the October 27 interview:

7:01 AM ET TEASE

MATT LAUER: It's nice to look across our studio and see Senator Bernie Sanders in the house this morning, the first time we've had a chance to welcome him during this presidential campaign. We'll get a chance to talk to him in just a couple of minutes.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: The first time we've been able to say we're feeling the Bern here in Studio 1A.

LAUER: Exactly right.

GUTHRIE: We’ll talk to him.

7:09 AM ET SEGMENT

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And now to the Democratic race, as Hillary Clinton campaign enjoys some new momentum, her main rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, is still nipping at her heels and providing a much bigger challenge than anyone would have predicted. Senator Sanders, good morning. It's nice to have you here in our studio.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS [I-VT]: Great to be here with you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Bernie Sanders Speaks Out; Democratic Candidate on Presidential Bid]  

GUTHRIE: A lot of Democrats really like you, some of them love you, but if you put your candidacy up side by side to Hillary Clinton’s and ask the simple question, who is more likely to prevail in a general election, would you acknowledge that Hillary Clinton has a better chance of winning the general?

SANDERS: Absolutely not. Actually, if you look at some of the polling of me against Donald Trump, we do better than Hillary Clinton, not in all, but in many of them. And the reason for that is the enthusiasm that we are generating. It means that a lot of working class people and young people who have given up on the political process are now coming out and they want a candidate to stand up for the big money interests and create an economy that works for all of us and not just the 1% . So we're generating excitement, big voter turnouts work, Democrats win under those
circumstances, and I think we are the candidate to do that.

MATT LAUER: You are Progressive across the board, except perhaps on the issue of guns. You've supported some reforms, but you also support legal immunity for gun manufacturers. You voted against the Brady Bill, which calls for background checks and five-day waiting periods. Do you think at this stage, in this day and age, that makes you a tough sell for many mainstream Democrats?

SANDERS: I don't and I'll tell you why, Matt. What people don't know is that in 1988, when I first ran for Congress, there were three candidates in the race. Two of them were supported by the gun groups, one of them, me, was not, and you know why? Because I said in that campaign, 1988, that I would vote to ban certain assault weapons. Two years later I kept my word. And by the way I have a D-minus voting record from the NRA and I have been strong in saying we have got to bring people together to end these horrific massacres that we're seeing and I think as a candidate coming from a state that has virtually no gun control at all I think I can do that.

GUTHRIE: You've sharpened your rhetoric in the last few days, perhaps not coincidentally, as Hillary Clinton gained new momentum in this race. And one thing you point out is that you’ve more consistently and for a longer term held positions on issues like gay marriage. On issues like trade deals.

SANDERS: Yeah.

GUTHRIE: You use the word “expedient” a lot. Let me be direct to you, do you think Hillary Clinton holds positions when and only because they’re politically expedient?

SANDERS: I'm going to let the voters make that decision, but what I will say, is I have, from almost day one in the Congress, known that our trade policies have been a disaster for American workers. We have lost millions of decent paying jobs.

GUTHRIE: But the subtext is, is that Hillary Clinton hasn't picked up that fight where you have?

SANDERS: Well, let me just say this. Let me put it in this way. I am delighted that in the last couple of months Hillary Clinton has come on board positions that I have held for many, many years on trade, on the Keystone Pipeline. If you're serious about climate change, you never support the transportation of some of the dirtiest fuel on Earth. So I'm glad that Hillary Clinton is moving in my direction.

LAUER: Let me talk about gridlock. People right now, Senator, are so frustrated with Washington.

SANDERS: Yes.

LAUER: President Obama has had key elements of his agenda blocked by conservatives in Congress.

SANDERS: Yes.

LAUER: You are to the left of President Obama.

SANDERS: Yes.

LAUER: Why will you succeed in getting rid of gridlock where he can't?

SANDERS: Great question. Because what we will do is rally the American people, Matt, around issues that they support. People want to see the minimum wage go up, 15 bucks an hour. They want to create millions of jobs, they want to make public colleges and universities –

LAUER: But the President has tried to rally the American people.

SANDERS: Well, I will do it differently, because at the end of the day, what people are really upset about is that big money controls what goes on in Congress, and the only way we change that is when millions of people come forward and demand the government represents all of us and not just the billionaire class.

GUTHRIE: Senator Sanders, you have all of us reaching into our high school textbooks to look up the definition of socialism versus democratic socialism versus capitalism. You call yourself a democratic socialist. In our last poll 60% of respondents said they were either comfortable or very comfortable with capitalism. You've said you are not a capitalist. I see those signs at your rallies, people say, “Join the revolution.” What about those voters who don't think a revolution sounds exciting, they think it sounds scary?

SANDERS: Well, I think our job is to make people aware that programs like Social Security, Medicare, the national park system, which is a wonderful system, are publicly owned programs. And to also make people aware that we are the only major country on Earth, Savannah, that doesn't guarantee health care to all people as a right and that we don't have paid family and medical leave, that we do not make public colleges and universities tuition-free as many other countries do. So I think once we get these issues out and talk about creating a government and programs that work for ordinary people rather than just the very wealthy, I think more people will understand what we're talking about.

LAUER: It's nice to have you here in New York. Come by and see us again.

SANDERS: Well, thank you very much.

GUTHRIE: Senator, thank you.

LAUER: Appreciate it.

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