Bernie Sanders to Spike Lee: ‘Estab­lishment GOP Going Nuts’ Over Donald Trump, the ‘Frankenstein They Created’

Associated Press
Associated Press

In an exhaustive sit-down interview for The Hollywood Reporter, Bernie Sanders endorsee Spike Lee got the democratic socialist to open up about GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and his ability to “manipulate the media” and why he is “sick and tired of seeing unarmed people shot” by “oppressive” police officers.

“The establishment Republicans are going nuts,” Sanders said about what Lee called Donald Trump: “the Frankenstein that the GOP has created.”

Trump “is an entertainer by and large. He did very well on television; he knows the media very, very well. Don’t underestimate him,” Sanders told Lee. “He knows how to manipulate the media very effectively, he knows how to do what he does with people. But let me just reassure you: Donald Trump is not going to become president of the United States. That I can say.”

Sanders, who is coming off a victory over Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin where Donald Trump lost to Ted Cruz, says Trump’s appeal stems from “the contempt and the frustration that the American people have, a segment of the American people have, with politics as usual.”

Sanders continued:

One of the reasons for these 50-year-old, 60-year-old white guys voting for Trump is in many cases they are working longer hours for lower wages, they are seeing their jobs go to China, they are seeing their jobs go to Mexico. They are scared to death about the future of their kids, and they don’t see anybody doing anything about it. And Trump comes along and says, “I got the solution, we’re going to scapegoat Mexicans and we’re going to build a wall a mile high.”

Sanders accused Trump of leveraging supposed racial resentment to coalesce his support among disillusioned voters.

“People are angry, what do you do? You don’t get to the real issues as to why people are hurting, you scapegoat,” Sanders said of Trump’s strategy to win the Republican presidential nomination. “You scapegoat blacks, Latinos, gays, anybody, Jews, Muslims, any minority out there, that’s what you do. That is nothing new. That’s what demagogues have always done, and that’s what Trump is doing.”

When Lee asked Sanders “what does Black Lives Matter mean” to him, the socialist senator said it means: “that we are all sick and tired of seeing unarmed people shot by police officers. That young people in African-American communities are harassed by police officers, where police departments are not there to be supportive but are in many cases oppressive, and that’s an issue that has to be addressed.”

Pivoting to education, Lee said “more than half of young black men do not graduate high school, which is a direct pipeline for the industrial prison complex.”

“And here is what I say every day: Real youth unemployment in this country, which nobody talks about, by the way, is off the charts,” Sanders responded, mere moments removed from praising President Obama’s legacy as being “one of the smartest presidents.”

“For African-American kids 17 to 20 who graduated high school, real unemployment is 51 percent today,” Sanders continued. “Fifty-one percent. Latinos, 36. White kids, 33 percent. And of course what ends up happening? Instead of investing in education for those kids or jobs for those kids, too many of them are ending up in jail, and we have more people in jail than any other country on Earth.”

Lee interrupted Sanders: “And let’s be honest, President Clinton was responsible for sending a whole lot of people of color to prison which he apologized for. But if I spent 10 years in prison, an apology is not going to be enough.”

Sanders responded by touting his proposed legislation that would remove marijuana “schedule one drug right alongside heroin,” from the Federal Controlled Substance Act.

Using marijuana “should not be a federal crime,” Sanders said. “States can legalize it if they want. And we need to deal with local police departments as well in terms of holding police officers accountable, demilitarizing police departments, making police departments look like the diversity of the communities that they are serving.”

“And I think, by the way, the American people are fairly united on this,” Sanders added. “And you know why conservatives want it? Because we’re spending $80 billion a year locking up people, and nobody thinks that that makes sense.”

“People need more education,” Sanders said, changing topics. “And I believe that when we talk about public education in America today, we have got to be saying that it includes free tuition at public colleges and universities.”

“Is that a radical idea?” Sanders said. “I don’t think so,” he said, answering his own question — while declining to explain how he would pay for “free education.”

Sanders is still down by an average of 11 points to Hillary Clinton in the crucial primary state of New York, but says he’s “feeling really good” about his chances to win the Empire State.

“We’re comin’ to New York City, and I think we’re going to win New York. It’ll be a tough fight; she was the United States senator here for eight years.”

As the interview ended, the two men looked at each other. Spike Lee thanked Sanders, and added, “It’s been an honor. You got my vote. Peace.”

Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter: @jeromeehudson