Debate moderator calls out Sanders for not immediately answering question on race

Debate moderator calls out Sanders for not immediately answering question on race
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PBS correspondent and debate moderator Amna Nawaz called out Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump is fighting the wrong war Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report The Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes MORE (I-Vt.) for initially sidestepping a question about race during Thursday's Democratic debate.

Nawaz asked Sanders "what message" it sent that businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangProgressive candidate Bush talks about her upset primary win over Rep. Clay Is this the end of the 'college experience'? Biden campaign to take over 'Supernatural' star's Instagram for interview MORE was the only candidate of color on the debate stage.

"I'll answer that question, but I wanted to get back to the issue of climate change for a moment because I do believe this is the existential issue," Sanders said in response.

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"Senator, with all respect, this question is about race. Can you answer the question as it was asked?" Nawaz said to applause in the debate hall in Los Angeles.

Sanders quickly pivoted by saying, "Because people of color, in fact, are going to be the people suffering most if we do not deal with climate change."

Sanders and many other White House hopefuls have struggled to gain popularity among black Democratic voters. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore HuffPost reporter: Biden's VP shortlist doesn't suggest progressive economic policies Jill Biden says she plans to continue teaching if she becomes first lady MORE, meanwhile, has garnered strong support among African Americans, helping bolster his status as a front-runner.

Earlier in Thursday's debate, Yang said it was "both an honor and a disappointment" to be the only candidate of color on the stage.

The businessman then took the opportunity to tout his own policies, arguing that his signature plan to give $1,000 a month to every U.S. adult would help support candidates of color down the line.

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“You know what you need to donate to political campaigns? Disposable income,” he said. “I guarantee if we had a freedom dividend of $1,000 a month, I would not be the only candidate of color on this stage tonight.”

The lack of diversity came under scrutiny in the run-up to the debate after Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHuffPost reporter: Biden's VP shortlist doesn't suggest progressive economic policies Hillary Clinton labels Trump coronavirus executive actions a 'stunt' Why Joe Biden needs Kamala Harris MORE (D-Calif.), who is of Indian and Jamaican descent, dropped out of the race, leaving Yang as the sole person of color to qualify for December's debate.

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Ex-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets MORE (D-N.J.) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who both failed to make the debate stage, have criticized the Democratic National Committee's debate criteria, arguing they make it more difficult for candidates of color to qualify for the debates.