Bernie Sanders on supporting Joe Biden, allegations against former VP, and the need to defeat "dangerous" Trump

Sanders on backing Biden, beating Trump
Sanders on backing Biden, beating Trump 06:17

Last Updated Apr 16, 2020 10:17 AM EDT

After dropping out of the 2020 race and backing his former rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said he believes the vast majority of his supporters will back Joe Biden in November. Although Sanders acknowledged that "everybody in American knows" how different the two are, he stressed the "choice is pretty clear" when deciding between Biden and President Donald Trump. 

Sanders spoke to "CBS This Morning" co-host Tony Dokoupil in his first network TV interview since endorsing Biden to discuss their ideological differences andwhere he expects Biden to adopt a more progressive stance.

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The Vermont senator was also asked about other concerns some supporters have, including a sexual assault allegation against Biden. His accuser reportedly filed a police report last week, now claiming Biden assaulted her in 1993 when she was working in his Senate office. Published reports indicate her story has changed over the years. Biden's campaign called the allegation "untrue" and said the alleged incident "absolutely did not happen."

Read a portion of their conversation below:

Bernie Sanders: On day one of my campaign, what I said is that, "If I lose, I will be there to support the Democratic nominee." Because it is absolutely imperative that we defeat Donald Trump, who, in my view, is the most dangerous, irresponsible president in the modern history of this country.

Tony Dokoupil: That's an argument against Donald Trump. But making the argument for Joe Biden is a different matter.

Sanders: To defeat Donald Trump, to me, and make sure that he is not reelected, is enormously important. So if you wanna make the point that Joe Biden's views are not mine, no kidding. I think everybody in America knows that. 

Dokoupil:  I made a little list of some of the things that have been central to your campaign, and I'm hoping you let me know which of these you think could be part of a Biden administration. Universal health care is a biggie. Free college for all, canceled college debt, national rent control, a ban on fracking, a wealth tax, marijuana legalization, a 50% reduction in the prison population - these are all things you've campaigned on that have made you popular. Joe Biden doesn't support any of them. Which do you see him moving on?

Sanders:  Well, I think you will see him moving on making public colleges and universities tuition-free for families earning less than $125,000, not where I was. I wanted more… I think his views on climate change are not my views. But I think he is prepared to invest many hundreds of billions of dollars into sustainable energies like wind and solar and, in the process, create a whole lot of jobs… I think on health care he is not an advocate of Medicare For All, as I am. But I think he's prepared to come forward with some ideas.

Dokoupil: Has he promised you anything?

Sanders: Well, we have talked about a number of issues. And you will see those evolving, coming out, I believe, in the next weeks and months.

Dokoupil: Joe Biden is gonna need every vote that he can get. How do you improve on your 2016 record to make sure that-

Sanders: My 2016 record was a fine record… in this house right here I got a couple of letters from Hillary Clinton, thanking me for the very strong support that I gave her. I did rally after rally, state after state… Look, the issue is that the American people are gonna have to make a fundamental decision. I'm gonna play a role in that. Do we come together to defeat somebody who is a pathological liar, somebody who does not believe in the rule of law, somebody who is prepared to give massive tax breaks to billionaires and ignore the needs of working families, or do we elect Joe Biden as president? I think the choice is pretty clear.

Dokoupil: I imagine that you will be fundraising for Joe Biden?

Sanders: Well, we will decide on what we're gonna do with fundraising. All I would say is that we're gonna do everything that we can to make sure that Donald Trump is not reelected.

Dokoupil: How do you campaign in the midst of this pandemic? Should there be conventions? Can you have rallies in the late summer, maybe?

Sanders: Well, nobody can predict that… The last thing that we want do is to do anything which gets more people sick and kills more people. That is the last thing that we wanna do… So I think that whether or not there'll be a convention remains to be seen… I don't know nor does anybody else, when rallies will be taking place, when candidates will be able to be out on the streets, shaking hands and talking to people face to face. Nobody knows that.

Dokoupil: I think it's indisputable that this virus has exposed how medically and financially fragile many sectors of our society are.

Sanders: That's right.

Dokoupil: In that tragedy, and our response to it, do you think society may reevaluate the need for the policies you've been arguing for, for 30 years now?

Sanders: The answer is yes. This pandemic, the economic collapse, has exposed the fragility of our health care system and our economy in terms of protecting working families. That is a lesson that I think many Americans are gonna learn from this.

Dokoupil: One of your most important allies, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said recently that she thinks it's legitimate and relevant to talk about sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden. Do you agree?

Sanders: I think it's relevant to talk about anything. And I think any woman who feels that she was assaulted has every right in the world to stand up and make her claims.

Dokoupil:  Do you think that should weigh significantly in the mind of-

Sanders:  I think that she has the right to make her claims and get a public hearing, and the public will make their own conclusions about it. I just don't know enough about it to comment further.

Dokoupil:  All right.