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Bernie Sanders Under Fire for Saying He Won’t Pay to Rebuild Homes in Storm-Stricken Areas

Independent Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is taking blistering criticism over his comments about federal assistance to rebuild homes devastated by hurricanes.

CNN posted a clip of Sanders from their Wednesday night climate change town hall, along with the description, “‘If people want to rebuild in an area which will be devastated by the next storm, they’re certainly not going to get federal assistance from my administration.’ -Sen. Sanders on changing FEMA rules to spur a retreat from properties suffering repeated losses.”

That tweet prompted a blizzard of criticism for Sanders, along the lines that he’s hanging all hurricane victims out to dry, especially poor ones.

In the full exchange, Sanders talks about using federal policy — through “carrots and sticks” — to encourage relocation of “a facility or a piece of infrastructure” destroyed by storms, and addresses the need to protect communities and poor people.

The quote that he’s getting criticized for was a response to a somewhat narrower follow-up question from Anderson Cooper.

“So would people in coastal communities, have a house right on the beach, would they have to move?” Cooper asked.

“Well, I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to rebuild that house so that it is, you know, knocked down again in the next storm,” Sanders replied.

“So how do you make that happen as president?” Cooper asked.

“Well, you do your best through carrots and sticks at the federal level,” Sanders said, adding “But, you know, if people want to rebuild in an area which will be devastated by the next storm, they’re certainly not going to get any federal assistance from my administration to do that.”

One more charitable interpretation of Sanders’ remark, from health policy expert and frequent Sanders critic Charles Gaba, is that Sanders was referring to people “who CAN move inland but choose not to.”

Cooper’s follow-up suggests that Sanders perhaps meant to say something like “beach houses” instead of entire “areas,” a distinction he might want to make in the future. But CNN’s summation of his remarks failed to reflect the question he was actually answering.

Watch the clip above, via CNN.

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