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

PBS correspondent and debate moderator Amna Nawaz called out Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness 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 YangGeorge Floyd protests show corporations must support racial and economic equality Andrew Yang discusses his universal basic income pilot program Andrew Yang on the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis 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 BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook 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.

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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 HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump 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 BookerRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk 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.

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