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Sanders on Fox News Defends Omar: 'Not anti-Semitic to Be Critical of a Right Wing Government in Israel'

Bernie Sanders took aim at Trump during a Fox News town hall and got big cheers for Medicare plan

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is greeted by audience members before a Fox News town-hall style event, Monday, April 15, 2019, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Matt Rourke,AP

U.S. Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders released 10 years of tax returns on Monday, just hours before appearing in a live Fox News town hall — highlighting to the Fox News audience that U.S. President Donald Trump has still yet to make any tax returns public.

Sanders provided details of his growing status as a millionaire, fueled by a sharp jump in income from book royalties since his losing 2016 White House run.

Town Hall with Bernie Sanders | Part 1
Town Hall with Bernie Sanders | Part 2

Sanders, a U.S. senator who routinely rails against the “millionaires and billionaires” he says have rigged the system to protect their wealth and power, had an adjusted gross income of $561,293 in 2018, $1,131,925 in 2017 and $1,062,626 in 2016, the returns showed.

During the town hall in Pennsylvania, hosted by anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, Sanders insisted that “If anyone thinks I should apologize for writing a bestselling book, I’m sorry, I’m not going to do it,” adding that he “voted against Trump’s tax bill.”

Sanders often received loud applause from the Fox audience, which also directly asked him questions. When grilled by an audience member whether or not the Democrats could go too far left and aid in Trump’s reelection, Sanders launched a stinging attack on Trump’s character. He said, “Whether you’re conservative or moderate or progressive, I don't think the American people are proud that we have a president who is a pathological liar. ...Trump cannot even tell the truth as to where his father was born.”

Sanders’ appearance on Fox was a surprise to some as the Democratic National Committee rejected hosting any of its 2020 primary debates on the channel. DNC Chairman Tom Perez claimed that “the network’s personalities are too cozy with the Trump administration and could not be trusted.”

Sanders also received a loud cheer when pitching his “Medicare for all” plan. Sanders argued that while millions of Americans lost health insurance every year, for various reasons including employers changing insurance, his plan would provide stability for every American.

When asked about his support for embattled Minnesota Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar, Sanders insisted criticism of Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic. “I will do everything in my power, and I hope that every member of Congress will fight not only anti-Semitism, but racism and anti-Muslim activity, so that we create a non-discriminatory society,” Sanders said. “But it is not anti-Semitic to be critical of a right wing government in Israel. That is not anti-Semitic.”

However, he also added that Omar “has got to do maybe a better job in speaking to the Jewish community.”

Sanders defended the “socialist” label Republicans are using to brand Democrats as out of touch with Americans, but one that Sanders openly embraces. Sanders said, “Democratic socialism to me is creating a governor and an economy that works for all rather than just the top 1 percent. We want to create a political system based on one person one vote, not billionaires buying elections.”

He continued, “We are taking on corporate America, we are taking on Republicans, we are taking on the Democratic establishment, taking on the drug companies, the insurance companies, the military industrial complex. You know what? It isn’t easy. I know that. But I think the American people know. The American people are ready to fight for justice in America. Economic justice, social justice, environmental justice and racial justice.”

Reuters contributed to this report