Fact Check: Bernie Sanders Did NOT Say He Thinks 'Black People Smell'

Hoax Alert

  • by: Alan Duke

Did Bernie Sanders tell an audience that he thinks "black people smell"? No, that's not true: A video of Sanders on a local cable access show when he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in the 1980s includes the future senator and presidential candidate talking to an audience about the history of racial stereotypes. His comments have been re-edited and taken out of context in social media posts claiming that Sanders is a racist.

One example of the claim was in a video (archived here) published on YouTube on February 21, 2020, under the title "The real Bernie Sanders - saying Black People Smell - 2020 election Racist Bernie Sanders". The description read:

Not for Children under 17 not suitable for Children, Bernie Sanders racist comments

Screenshot of https://youtu.be/kliKH85s3ro

This is what the video looked like on YouTube:

This video was crudely manipulated to make it appear that Sanders - who is Jewish - was sharing his own opinion about blacks, Jews, and the Irish. It leaves out the context:

"That Black people smell. Alright, what about Jewish people? What's their thing? How are they different from other people? Their religious beliefs were different, but also they were greedy and selfish people, also had strange habits and so forth and so on. What does everybody know about the Irish? They get in fights because they get drunk. All the Irish people do is drink. That's the Irish. All Italians are gangsters and Irish are drunk and Jews are greedy and black people smell. Okay?"

The original video revealed Sanders was leading a school class in a discussion about the history of racial stereotypes:

"When I was a young person, what we learned is that black people smell. Alright, what about Jewish people? What's their thing? How are they different from other people? Their religious beliefs were different, but also they were greedy and selfish people, also had strange habits and so forth and so on. What does everybody know about the Irish? They get in fights because they get drunk. All the Irish people do is drink. That's the Irish. All Italians are gangsters and Irish are drunk and Jews are greedy and black people smell. Okay?"

The video was part of an archival release by the Burlington, Vermont, cable company that produced the mayor's show. Here is the full show from where the comments were taken:

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah did a comedy segment on the videos soon after they were released in May 2019:

Here are several other recent debunk articles about false claims concerning Bernie Sanders:

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  Alan Duke

Editor-in-Chief Alan Duke co-founded Lead Stories after ending a 26-year career with CNN, where he mainly covered entertainment, current affairs and politics. Duke closely covered domestic terrorism cases for CNN, including the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, the UNABOMBER and search for Southeast bomber Eric Robert Rudolph. CNN moved Duke to Los Angeles in 2009 to cover the entertainment beat. Duke also co-hosted a daily podcast with former HLN host Nancy Grace, "Crime Stories with Nancy Grace" and hosted the podcast series "Stan Lee's World: His Real Life Battle with Heroes & Villains." You'll also see Duke in many news documentaries, including on the Reelz channel, CNN and HLN.

Read more about or contact Alan Duke

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