Buttigieg responds to criticism after comparing Sanders, Trump supporters

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina Sanders says gender 'still an obstacle' for female politicians Sanders v. Warren is just for insiders MORE (D) clarified comments he made over the weekend comparing supporters of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina MORE (I-Vt.), telling NBC the two represent “radically different” philosophies.

“My point is that people have been motivated to want to blow up the establishment. And Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump represent radically different ways of doing that,” Buttigieg, a Democratic presidential candidate, told NBC News’s Josh Lederman.

“But I think part of how each of them was able to get some appeal was by speaking to the frustration that so many Americans have with anything perceived as the establishment, anything seen as being committed to the political and economic systems that have been prevailing really for my entire life,” the 37-year-old mayor added.

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In his initial comments on Sunday, Buttigieg told a crowd of supporters in New Hampshire that economic woes prompt voters to “want to vote to blow up the system,” which could make either Trump or Sanders appealing to them.

Buttigieg, a relatively unknown name in the national landscape until recent months, has surged in the polls and come in third behind Sanders and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina MORE, who has not yet formally announced a run.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaSanders, Warren battle for progressive endorsements Rep. Ro Khanna: You can't claim you're resisting President Trump and hand the Pentagon a blank check Sanders campaign co-chair calls for progressive unity amid senators' fallout MORE (D-Calif.), national co-chairman of Sanders’s 2020 campaign, criticized Buttigieg’s remarks on Twitter, calling them “intellectually dishonest.” Sanders, Khanna wrote, “wants to blow up credentialed elitism — those who reject tuition free college for all."

Buttigieg communications adviser Lis Smith responded to Khanna’s tweet Sunday evening and denied it was intended as an attack on Sanders.

“Acknowledging that the system was so broken that voters were looking to .@BernieSanders over the Dem establishment is not an insult, it’s the reality,” Smith tweeted.

Buttigieg has repeatedly spoken of Trump voters as seeking to disrupt the system, and warned that the results of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE’s recently concluded investigation would not sway many of the president’s supporters because they “voted to burn the house down because of some very deep issues that motivated them to send a message.”