Former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe introduced Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Coney Island, New York on Sunday, where he praised the Democratic presidential contender’s “unflappable” stance on social issues in an impassioned five-minute stump speech.
In his speech, the 56-year-old Georgia-born singer said he was drawn to Sanders “during an especially dark time in our city’s history, a time when many people allowed fear, hysteria and misinformation to dominate their better judgement.”
“I watched Bernie take a principled stand and vote against the Iraq War and the Patriot Act,” Stipe said, to cheers from the Coney Island audience. “At a juncture when it was expedient to simply go along to get along, when it was easy to surrender our personal freedoms to the illusion of safety and protection. Bernie said no.”
The rocker said he had spent time researching Sanders’ political past, and that he admired that the Vermont senator had marched alongside his hero, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in support of civil rights.
“Fast forward to Bernie Sanders today, a man with an unflappable position on issues important to me, like LGBTQ rights, environmental justice and equality,” Stipe continued. “Whether we’re talking about pay equity, a living wage for all full-time employees, or making sure Main Street doesn’t suffer because of Wall Street, Bernie Sanders walks the walk and talks the talk when it comes to fairness.”
“Bernie Sanders isn’t worried about political expediency, or doing what polls might say is the right thing to do,” he added. “His moral compass is due north, and that is exactly what we need right now.”
After the speech, Stipe joined Sanders and his wife Jane at Nathan’s, where the trio ordered up some of Coney Island’s famous hot dogs.
New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor captured a candid photograph of the group eating lunch together:
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) April 10, 2016
Stipe is just the celebrity to back Sanders in New York ahead of the state’s critical April 19 primary. Actress Rosario Dawson and Spike Lee introduced the candidate at a rally in the Bronx last week, while singer Harry Belafonte appeared with Sanders at a campaign event on Saturday. Belafonte also appears in a new television advertisement produced by Spike Lee that will air in New York over the next nine days.
Other musicians who have publicly backed Sanders’ run include Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, rapper Killer Mike and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who hosted a fundraising concert for the candidate in Los Angeles in February.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum