WASHINGTON (AP) — Bernie Sanders retracted his endorsement for online news personality Cenk Uygur in a California congressional race on Friday after coming under fire from supporters for backing someone who had made demeaning and controversial comments about women, Muslims and African Americans.
“I hear my supporters who were frustrated and understand their concerns. Cenk today said he is rejecting all endorsements for his campaign and I retract my endorsement,” Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, said in a tweet.
The Vermont senator endorsed Uygur the day before in the special election to replace former California Rep. Katie Hill. Uygur is facing off against at least nine other candidates, four of whom are Democrats. Uygur’s online news and commentary show, “The Young Turks,” has a strong progressive following, and Sanders had originally said the host was “a voice that we desperately need in Congress.”
After Sanders went public with his endorsement, however, he faced backlash from progressives online who pointed to Uygur’s past controversial comments and questioned why Sanders was backing him.
In one characteristic blog post, from 2000, Uygur wrote that “obviously, the genes of women are flawed. They are poorly designed creatures who do not want to have sex nearly as often as needed for the human race to get along peaceably and fruitfully.”
Uygur also came under fire for using the N-word on his show multiple times; he acknowledged this week that “The Young Turks” had a policy of using the N-word when quoting racists as a means of mocking them but stopped after complaints.
In 2012, he said orthodox Jews and Muslims are teaching their children things that are “Looney Tunes.”
Before Sanders retracted his support, Uygur announced he would not accept any endorsements. In a statement, he thanked Sanders and others for supporting him because “their stance took real courage in the face of the corporate media and Democratic establishment onslaught.” But he said he had decided not to accept endorsements because “I will not be beholden to corporations, lobbyists or special interest groups, and I will not stand by while those groups attack my political allies.”
The primary is scheduled for March 3. The general election for the 25th Congressional District, covering parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, is May 12.