It’s getting down and dirty on political Twitter today, with Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign sending out a series of parody quotes meant to show that Bernie Sanders admires dictators — including one that some commenters see as an appeal to homophobia.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper that aired Sunday on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont and current front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, defended comments he’d made in the 1980s about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, saying the Cuban people didn’t rise up against him because they appreciated that he’d provided them with education and health care.
“We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know?” Sanders told Cooper. “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?”
Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who’s also seeking the Dems’ presidential nomination, tweeted out a clip from the show Monday, with his own comments decrying Castro’s “forced labor camps, religious repression, widespread poverty, firing squads, and the murder of thousands of his own people.” Castro, who is now deceased, was also no friend to LGBTQ people.
Then Team Bloomberg, the official Twitter of Bloomberg’s presidential campaign, sent out several tweets with the hashtag #BernieOnDespots, with made-up quotes portraying Sanders praising other dictators, such as North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, with the latter tweet bringing accusations of gay-baiting.
A sample of comments on the tweet:
Given Donald Trump’s admiration for the Russian president, some jokesters have portrayed Trump and Putin as lovers — an approach that many observers have also decried as homophobic, noting that there’s plenty to criticize about the two of them without implying they’re gay and that something’s wrong with that.
Asked for comment on the #BernieOnDespots tweets, the Bloomberg campaign referred The Advocate to a Team Bloomberg tweet saying, “To be clear — all of these are satire — with the exception of the 60 Minutes clip from last night.”