Buttigieg responds to criticism after comparing Sanders, Trump supporters

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegButtigieg jokes about holding town hall same night as 'Game of Thrones' finale Buttigieg defends appearing on Fox News: Many Americans don't hear Dems' message Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE (D) clarified comments he made over the weekend comparing supporters of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersButtigieg defends appearing on Fox News: Many Americans don't hear Dems' message Buttigieg: The future 'is personal' for me Donald Trump, president for life? We need term limits now 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 Robinette BidenButtigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' Buttigieg: The future 'is personal' for me Donald Trump, president for life? We need term limits now MORE, who has not yet formally announced a run.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaDem rep: You can't be a Democrat if you don't support abortion, LGBTQ rights House passes drug pricing bills amid ObamaCare row John Cusack calls for Trump's impeachment in Capitol Hill visit 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 MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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.”