Here’s the Full 1985 Interview Where Bernie Sanders Praised Castro, Slammed Reagan, and More


Independent Vermont Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gave a lengthy interview in 1985 in which he praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, defended Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, and slammed then-President Ronald Reagan as a liar.

The interview originally aired on August 8, 1985 on Vermont’s Channel 17/Town Meeting Television, and followed then-Burlington Mayor Sanders’ visit to Nicaragua, where he attended a rally at which Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega railed against the United States government.

The video resurfaced during the last presidential campaign when Buzzfeed posted it in June of 2015, and given Sanders’ decision to run again in 2020, will likely be circulated again. Indeed, it already has.

In the interview, Sanders said that he was “impressed” by the leaders of the Sandinista government, singling Ortega and others out for praise. The comment that got the most attention in 2016, though, was his praise for Fidel Castro.

Sanders drew an analogy between Cuba and the situation in Nicaragua,

“Way back in, what was it, 1961, they invaded Cuba,” Sanders said, “and everybody was totally convinced that Castro was the worst guy in the world and all of the Cuban people were going to rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro. They forgot that he educated their kids, gave their kids healthcare, totally transformed the society.”

“Not that Fidel Castro and Cuba are perfect, they certainly are not,” Sanders added, “but just because Ronald Reagan dislikes these people doesn’t mean that people in their own nations feel the same way.”

Sanders had many choice words for then-President Reagan, including one jab that might sound familiar to modern-day voters. While answering a question about helping the Sandinistas get their message out to the American people, Sanders remarked “Reagan and his people are so sophisticated, they own the airwaves… the media, every time Reagan gives them a photo opportunity, thousands, ‘Thank you, Mr. President, thank you very much for telling us another lie!'”

Both the Sandinistas and the U.S.-backed Contra forces were found to have committed gross human rights abuses, but Sanders was correct that an overthrow of the Sandinista government never occurred, and they continue to commit abuses. As for Reagan, he would go on to admit that his administration financed the Contras with the sale of arms to Iran, but claimed he had no knowledge of it.

Sanders defended his remarks from that interview during a 2016 debate with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Clinton slammed him in response.

Confronted with footage from the interview, Sanders said “The key issue here was whether the United States should go around overthrowing small Latin American countries. I think that that was a mistake… both in Nicaragua and Cuba.”

“Look, let’s look at the facts here. Cuba is, of course, an authoritarian undemocratic country, and I hope very much as soon as possible it becomes a democratic country,” Sanders continued, after an interruption from the moderator, “But on the other hand… it would be wrong not to state that in Cuba they have made some good advances in health care. They are sending doctors all over the world. They have made some progress in education. I think by restoring full diplomatic relations with Cuba, it will result in significant improvements to the lives of Cubans and it will help the United States and our business community invest.”

Moments later, Clinton responded.

“I think in that same interview, he praised what he called the revolution of values in Cuba and talked about how people were working for the common good, not for themselves,” Clinton said. “I just couldn’t disagree more. You know, if the values are that you oppress people, you disappear people, you imprison people or even kill people for expressing their opinions, for expressing freedom of speech, that is not the kind of revolution of values that I ever want to see anywhere.”

Rather than relying on chopped-up clips and spittle-flecked tweets, watch the full interview above, via Channel 17.

[Image via screengrab]

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