Bernie Sanders got his biggest applause line of the Democratic presidential debate’s opening hour—by backing Hillary Clinton. Specifically, the senator from Vermont tried to help the former Secretary of State get past the controversy surrounding her use of a private email account for official business.
“The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” Sanders said, to raucous approval in the audience. “Enough of the emails!”
Clinton admitted that using a private email account “wasn’t the best choice,” and that she had “taken responsibility” for the mistake. But she quickly tried to pivot away from the issue itself by accusing Republicans of operating a “partisan vehicle” in the form of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which had targeted her for political purposes.
“This committee is basically an arm of the Republican National Committee,” Clinton said. “This committee has spent $4.5 million of taxpayer money.”
Despite the attacks, Clinton said, “I am still standing.”
Debate moderator Anderson Cooper pushed back on the idea that concern over Clinton’s emails was a purely partisan issue, pointing out that the FBI was investigating the emails, and that President Obama had said it was a “legitimate” issue. (Cooper didn’t mention that several of the emails found on Clinton’s server involved top secret material.)
Following the Bernie-backing, the Benghazi exchange ended with an offer by Cooper: “Secretary Clinton, do you want to respond?”
“No,” Clinton responded, abruptly, to laughs.