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Sanders: Democratic debate format is 'demeaning'

Sanders: Democratic debate format is 'demeaning'
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw MORE (I-Vt.) is frustrated by the Democratic presidential primary debates, saying that the spectacle of 20 candidates agitating for time plays to their worst instincts and is “demeaning” to the field of contenders.

Speaking on the "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast, Sanders said “you shouldn’t even call them a debate.”

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“What they are is a reality TV show in which you have to come up with a soundbite and all that stuff,” he said. “It’s demeaning to the candidates and it’s demeaning to the American people. You can’t explain the complexity of health care in America in 45 seconds, nobody can.”

The Vermont senator, who is in second place behind former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter Trump narrows Biden's lead in Pennsylvania: poll Florida breaks first-day early voting record with 350K ballots cast MORE in many national and early-voting state polls, acknowledged that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) “is in a difficult position” trying to accommodate the two dozen candidates running for the party’s nomination.

But he said the current format encourages the candidates to stand out with outrageous soundbites in an effort to earn media attention.

“What it encourages people to do is come up with soundbites and do absurd things,” Sanders said. “If I yell and scream on this show and took my clothes off, it would get a lot of publicity, right? If you give a thoughtful answer to a complicated question, it’s not so sexy for the media.”

Twenty candidates participated in each of the first two rounds of Democratic presidential debates, which have so far been spread over two nights with 10 candidates onstage each night.

The DNC has raised the threshold to qualify for the September debate in Houston. Candidates must have 130,000 unique donors and reach 2 percent in four sanctioned polls to qualify.

The debate stage could shrink considerably.

So far, Biden, Sanders, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg 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 Biden town hall questioner worked as speechwriter in Obama administration: report MORE, and Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker 'outs' Cruz as vegan; Cruz jokingly decries 'scurrilous attack' Why Latinos should oppose Barrett confirmation Judiciary Committee sets vote on Barrett's nomination for next week MORE (N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Government watchdog to investigate allegations of Trump interference at CDC, FDA MORE (Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter As VP Kamala Harris could be a powerful voice for women's retirement security The clock is ticking and Trump is still taking a shellacking MORE (Calif.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Senate Democrats seek to alleviate public concern about some results not being available on election night Washington flooded with Women's March protesters ahead of Barrett confirmation vote MORE (Minn.) have qualified.

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardHarris faces biggest moment in spotlight yet Ocasio-Cortez slams Tulsi Gabbard for amplifying ballot harvesting video Republicans call on DOJ to investigate Netflix over 'Cuties' film MORE (Hawaii), tech entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangPelosi spars with CNN's Blitzer over COVID-19 aid: 'You really don't know what you're talking about' The shape of guaranteed income Biden's latest small business outreach is just ... awful MORE and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro appear to be close to qualifying.