Sanders speaks at the opening of his Cedar Rapids field headquarters in Marion, Iowa, Sunday. (Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP)
Bernie Sanders is drawing huge crowds on the campaign trail, concern from Hillary Clinton — whom he just passed in New Hampshire in a poll of Democratic primary voters — and scorn from Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.
And yet the Vermont independent senator and self-described socialist still elicits curious questions in interviews — even with the New York Times.
In a “condensed and edited” Q&A with New York Times Magazine, published online Monday, writer Ana Marie Cox asked Sanders if it's fair Clinton's hair gets more attention than his:
Cox: Do you think it’s fair that Hillary's hair gets a lot more scrutiny than yours does?
Sanders: Hillary's hair gets more scrutiny than my hair?
Sanders: Is that what you’re asking?
Sanders: O.K., Ana, I don’t mean to be rude here. I am running for president of the United States on serious issues, O.K.? Do you have serious questions?
Cox: I can defend that as a serious question. There is a gendered reason —
Sanders: When the media worries about what Hillary’s hair looks like or what my hair looks like, that’s a real problem. We have millions of people who are struggling to keep their heads above water, who want to know what candidates can do to improve their lives, and the media will very often spend more time worrying about hair than the fact that we’re the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people.
Cox: It’s also true that the media pays more attention to what female candidates look like than it does to what male candidates look like.
Sanders: That may be. That may be, and it’s absolutely wrong.
Whether or not Cox’s line of questioning was merited, Sanders has been steadfast in his pledge not to engage in what he believes are nonissues.
“My campaign will be driven by issues and serious debate, not political gossip, not reckless personal attacks or character assassination,” Sanders said at his campaign launch in May. “This is what I believe the American people want and deserve. I hope other candidates agree, and I hope the media allows that to happen. Politics in a democratic society should not be treated like a baseball game, a game show or a soap opera. The times are too serious for that.”
Sanders holds up his iPhone while answering a question about privacy issues in Iowa on Sunday. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Earlier in the interview, Sanders was asked at least one serious question — about Black Lives Matter protesters interrupting a campaign speech in Seattle, a moment that spawned the mocking #BernieSoBlack hashtag on Twitter.
“Black Lives Matter is a very, very serious issue,” Sanders said. “And clearly, as a nation, we have to move away from a situation where black women are dragged out of their cars, thrown to the ground, assaulted and then die in jail three days later for the crime of not signaling a lane change. Or more recently, a fellow named Samuel DuBose got shot in the head for the crime of not having a license plate on the front of his car.”
The Democratic presidential hopeful added that he was surprised that black activists targeted him first.
“If you check the record, you will find that I have one of the strongest civil rights records in Congress,” he said. “And this is an issue I feel strongly about.”
Sanders was also asked what he thinks about Trump’s recent surge in the polls.
“Not much,” Sanders said. “I think Donald Trump’s views on immigration and his slurring of the Latino community is not something that should be going on in the year 2015, and it’s to me an embarrassment for our country.”