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Buttigieg responds to criticism after comparing Sanders, Trump supporters

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds Biden signs order to require masks on planes and public transportation Senators vet Buttigieg to run Transportation Department MORE (D) clarified comments he made over the weekend comparing supporters of President TrumpDonald TrumpMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Trump planned to oust acting AG to overturn Georgia election results: report MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Next steps in the Trump impeachment Sanders selling sweatshirts with his famous inauguration pose for charity Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' 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 BidenMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Fauci infuriated by threats to family MORE, who has not yet formally announced a run.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaHouse Democrats introduce measures to oppose Trump's bomb sale to Saudis House impeaches Trump for second time — with some GOP support Stacey Abrams gets kudos for work in Georgia runoff election 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) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump 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.”