By Marisa Schultz
Published February 01, 2020
Sen. Bernie Sanders is famous for railing against the 1 percent and lamenting the conditions of the modern working class. But early in his career, he went even further to cast those workers as victims of the system – using a curious analogy to repeatedly compare the plight of blue-collar workers to the horrors endured by enslaved African Americans.
The Daily Beast reported earlier last month that the presidential hopeful had brought up slavery when discussing the struggles of the working class in nearly all-white Vermont in the 1970s.
Fox News has obtained more examples of archival interviews the Vermont independent did in the 1970s that reveal Sanders’ comparison wasn’t a one-off, but an apparent belief that he repeatedly espoused.
In an interview with the Brattleboro Reformer published Oct. 11, 1976, Sanders offered a harsh reaction to the news that a family-owned business, Vermont Marble Co., was being acquired by a Swiss firm.
"What about the 800 workers?' Sanders asked. “They were informed about the sale four days before it was publicly announced. They were sold to the Swiss. No one asked them how they felt about it. They weren't treated very differently from the way black people in this country were treated when there was slavery.'"
In the 1970s, Sanders ran twice for governor and twice for Senate unsuccessfully as the nominee for the left-wing Liberty Union Party. In an interview with the Rutland Daily Herald in 1978 on why he kept seeking office, Sanders brought up slavery again.
"I believe that the vast majority of the people of the world and of this country are living in a slave-like condition not terribly different from what existed in this country before the Civil War," Sanders said in the Nov. 5, 1978 article.
Two years later, Sanders went on to run for mayor of Burlington, Vt., as a self-described socialist. The 39-year-old won by 10 votes in a major political upset that kicked off a long political career that could end with winning the White House in November.
The Sanders campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about whether the senator still believes the conditions of the working class are similar to black people sold into slavery.
A Sanders campaign official, however, sought to downplay the comments to the Daily Beast by explaining that Sanders has been a longtime opponent of wage slavery, and pointed to his work as a senator in investigating cases of poor working conditions.
The official also noted that Sanders has called for the U.S. to officially apologize for slavery.
The Daily Beast reported other interviews in which Sanders made comparisons to slavery in the 1970s. At the time, the population of Vermont was 99 percent white, and Sanders was a prominent leader of the Liberty Union Party, a socialist party in that state.
In a 1976 interview, Sanders likened the sale of a private mining company to “the days of slavery, when black people were sold to different owners without their consent.”
In a 1977 interview, Sanders said that “basically, today, Vermont workers remain slaves in many, many ways," the Daily Beast reported.
The newly unearthed clips obtained by Fox News reflect themes that are remarkably similar to those of Sanders’ current 2020 presidential campaign – minus the slavery references.
In the Daily Herald interview in 1978, Sanders fashioned himself as a journalist and said his goal is to educate and mobilize working people to take the state of Vermont “away from the bankers and corporate executives who currently control it.”
Sanders at age 37 had doomsday predictions, much like he does today at age 78.
“I find the conditions of the world horrendous,” Sanders said in 1978. “And if present trends continue, I believe the planet may not survive another 50 years on its present course, and certainly not with any degree of individual freedom.”