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Buttigieg responds to criticism after comparing Sanders, Trump supporters

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegLGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress Buttigieg says it's time to 'turn the page' on Trump administration Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 MORE (D) clarified comments he made over the weekend comparing supporters of President TrumpDonald John TrumpMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden defends his health plan from Trump attacks Progressives blast Biden plan to form panel on Supreme Court reform Sanders: Progressives will work to 'rally the American people' if Biden wins 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 BidenMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE, who has not yet formally announced a run.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaExpiring benefits raise economic stakes of stalled stimulus talks Overnight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy Watchdog to audit Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds on defense contractors 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) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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.”