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Buttigieg responds to criticism after comparing Sanders, Trump supporters

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegHigh-speed rail getting last minute push in Congress Buttigieg: Bipartisan deal on infrastructure 'strongly preferred' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm MORE (D) clarified comments he made over the weekend comparing supporters of President TrumpDonald TrumpGuardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor's race Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump Schumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSchumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster Schumer, Pelosi meeting with White House on infrastructure Feehery: 8 reasons why Biden should take the bipartisan infrastructure deal 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 BidenBaltimore police chief calls for more 'boots on the ground' to handle crime wave Biden to deliver remarks at Sen. John Warner's funeral Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump MORE, who has not yet formally announced a run.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaPublic option fades with little outcry from progressives Democrats shift tone on unemployment benefits Khanna outlines how progressives will push in climate infrastructure proposal 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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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.”