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

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Manchin fires warning shot on plan to expand Medicare Democrats steamroll toward showdown on House floor 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

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 TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE, let's be clear, you want to — I do not think that Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnSatellite photos indicate North Korea expanding uranium enrichment The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? North Korea says recent missiles were test of 'railway-borne' system MORE is a good friend. I don't trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinNavalny knocks Apple, Google for removing voting app Federal agencies warn companies to be on guard against prolific ransomware strain Top US general: Meeting with Russian counterpart 'productive' MORE, not a great friend of mine.”

ADVERTISEMENT

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

Florida Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaDemocrats face bleak outlook in Florida 'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection Pelosi, Schumer must appoint new commissioners to the CARES Act oversight panel 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 RubioDemocrats face bleak outlook in Florida The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit Poll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field 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 Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Zeldin says he's in remission after treatment for leukemia Governors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

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