Sanders: 'Unfair to simply say everything is bad' in Cuba under Castro

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren to host high-dollar fundraiser for Biden Julián Castro to become senior advisor for Voto Latino It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE (I-Vt.), the leading Democratic presidential candidate, said in an new interview that it’s “unfair” to classify everything as being “bad” in Cuba under the authoritarian rule of the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro

“We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but you know it's unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Sanders told “60 Minutes” in an interview that aired late Sunday. 

“You know, when Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?” he added. 

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His remarks came in response to a question about comments he made in the 1980s explaining that the Cuban people did not rise up because of education and health care. 

Host Anderson Cooper followed up by noting that a lot of dissidents were imprisoned in Cuba. 

“That's right. And we condemn that,” Sanders responded. “Unlike Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump in new ad: 'The death toll is still rising.' 'The president is playing golf' Brazil surpasses Russia with second-highest coronavirus case count in the world Trump slams Sessions: 'You had no courage & ruined many lives' MORE, let's be clear, you want to — I do not think that Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnKim Jong Un seeks to continue bolstering North Korea's nuclear capabilities, state media says Overnight Defense: State Dept. watchdog was investigating emergency Saudi arms sales before ouster | Pompeo says he requested watchdog be fired for 'undermining' department | Pensacola naval base shooter had 'significant ties' to al Qaeda, Barr says Trump says investigation into Pompeo shows 'screwed up' priorities MORE is a good friend. I don't trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinHouse Democrats object to Trump sending ventilators to Russia Overnight Defense: Trump to withdraw US from Open Skies Treaty | Pentagon drops ban on recruits who had virus | FBI says Corpus Christi shooting terror-related Trump: China is 'desperate' for Biden to win MORE, not a great friend of mine.”

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Sanders's comments on Castro drew bipartisan pushback Sunday night after the interview aired.

Florida Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaTreasury has not disbursed B in airline support: oversight panel We can't afford to let local news die The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Hurd says China engaged in global disinformation campaign; US unemployment highest since Great Depression MORE (D) said she hopes in the future Sanders will speak to some of her constituents before he “decides to sing the praises of a murderous tyrant like Fidel Castro.” 

Rep. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioCOVID-19 makes Trump's work with black Americans that much harder China reports no new COVID-19 cases for first time since outbreak Trump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy MORE (R-Fla.) also said Sanders is “wrong” about why people didn’t overthrow Castro. 

“It’s not because ‘he educated their kids,gave them health care’ it‘s because his opponents were jailed,murdered or exiled,” he tweeted. 

And Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mnuchin sees 'strong likelihood' of another relief package; Warner says some businesses 'may not come back' at The Hill's Advancing America's Economy summit The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve MORE (R-N.Y.) attacked Sanders over his “democratic socialist” ideology after the interview aired. 

“This isn’t Cuba, Venezuela or the USSR. 2020 may be the year Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Socialists take over the Democratic Party, but it better not be the year they take over the United States of America,” Zeldin tweeted. 

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Sanders is leading the Democratic presidential primary field, after winning in New Hampshire and Nevada.