Staffers from independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign were apoplectic on Monday night after MSNBC anchor Chuck Todd cited a conservative writer to liken Sanders’ supporters to “brown shirts.”
Discussing the latest developments in the Democratic race a day ahead of the New Hampshire primary, the conversation turned towards Sanders’ passionate base and how they would react to any potential ‘Stop Bernie’ movement from the Democratic establishment if former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign collapses.
After fellow MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell said there would be “hell to pay with the Bernie people,” Todd turned to a column written by The Bulwark’s Jonathan Last that argued that Sanders’ online army was similar to President Donald Trump’s and both used online attacks and trolling to pump up their candidates.
“I wanna bring up something Jonathan Last put in the Bulwark today,” Todd noted, turning to Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. “It is about how—Ruth, we have all been on the receiving end of the Bernie online brigade—and here's what he says.”
“He says, ‘no other candidate has anything like this digital brownshirt brigade. I mean, except for Donald Trump. The question no one is asking is this, what if you can’t win the presidency without an online mob? What if we live in a world where having a bullying agro social online army running around popping anyone who sticks their head up is either an important ingredient for, or a critical marker of, success?’”
Mitchell, meanwhile, uttered “wow” as Todd added: “I know everybody’s freaking out about this but you saw the MAGA rally that’s preparing around here. There are people coming from three or four states. That’s real and this is like Bernie.”
Later in the segment, MSNBC contributor Jason Johnson—a frequent critic of Sanders—said everyone at the table had “been victimized” by the Vermont senator’s “online army,” adding that if “you say one word” they “sort of attack like a pack of dogs.”
After video of Todd’s comments began to make the rounds on social media, it didn’t take long for supporters of the democratic socialist candidate to slam the MSNBC anchor online, eventually pushing the hashtag #firechucktodd to trend on Twitter.
Sanders senior adviser and speechwriter David Sirota, meanwhile, blasted the Meet the Press host, saying MSNBC seemed “very frightened” that voters “may actually get to participate in deciding who wins the presidency.”
He also retweeted another user who said the NBC News host needed to “apologize immediately” for comparing Sanders’ supporters to brown shirts as “Bernie Sanders’ family members were murdered in the Holocaust.”
Sanders campaign national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray also did not pull her punches online.
“‘Digital brown shirt brigade.’ That's how our Jewish candidate's supporters are being described on the MSM,” she tweeted. “The contempt shown for ordinary people is really something.”
We reached out to Bernie Sanders’ campaign for an official response to Todd’s remarks but did not hear back in time for publication. We also emailed MSNBC for comment on the anchor’s segment and the backlash it received but also did not receive a response prior to publication.