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Bernie Sanders joins TODAY Show for live town hall, answers voters' top questions

Bernie Sanders takes questions from New York voters in a live town hall hosted on the TODAY Plaza.
/ Source: TODAY

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders paid a visit to the TODAY Plaza Friday morning to answer voters' questions in a live town hall.

During the event, Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie moderated as viewers, both in person and via social media, asked about political agenda items, from healthcare to gun control litigation, as well as the rhetoric exchanged with his political rival, Hillary Clinton.

Here’s a look at some of Sanders' answers:

Q. Do you think [Hillary Clinton] is qualified to be president?

A. Sanders said that “the Clinton campaign has changed its tone” after losing most of the recent primaries and caucuses within the last few weeks. But despite the heated war of words between the two candidates, “on her worst day, she would be an infinitely better president than either of the Republican candidates.”

When asked again if she was qualified, he said: “of course.” He also said “I hope that we get away from these attacks, which by the way, the media likes very much and start focusing … on the real issues.”


Q. We keep hearing that a woman candidate would be better advocate for women. What will you do to address gender inequality and women's health issues?

A. “I will fight as hard as I can for pay equity for women. They want that whole damn dollar and not 79 cents on the dollar,” Sanders said. He also reasserted he is “100 percent pro-choice” before moving on the health care issues and his plan for a Medicare-based, single-payer health care program.

"We have got to join the rest of the industrialized world, guaranteed health care for every man, woman, and child as a right,” he said.

Q. If you’re elected, how would you go about breaking up banks that are too big to fail?

A. Sanders said he would push legislation he has introduced in the Senate that would give the Treasury secretary the authority to break up banks that, should they collapse, pose “a systemic risk” to the economy. He said that six of the current financial institutions hold a majority control of credit cards and about one-third of all mortgages, which he called “too much economic and political power in the hands of a few banks.”

Q. Why do you think gun manufacturers should be given immunity from lawsuits? Would that extend to cell phone manufacturers? Airlines?

A. Sanders clarified that he doesn’t support “blanket immunity” for businesses or manufacturers that sell guns. However, he said “if somebody sells me a legal product, and I do something crazy with it, should I be sued? The answer is no.”

“If you sell me a gun, and the gun explodes in my hand, of course you’re liable to be sued. But if a product works the way it was designed to work, then I do not believe that gun owner should be sued.”

Instead, he said if businesses have good reason to believe that they are selling to someone with criminal or harmful intent, then they have a responsibility to notify authorities and be held accountable if they fail to act.

Q. Are there any regrets so far in your campaign that you wish you could go back and change?

A. Sanders said he wished he had the chance to do more intimate “retail politics” that would allow him to interact more personally.

“I’m very proud of the fact that we've had some 900,000 people come out to our rallies. But we haven't done as many smaller, outdoor rallies,” he said. “We're going to rectify that here in New York City. We're going to be going around the city today. I love that. This is the stuff I love. We may be dropping into your neighborhood.”

Q. Is New York a must-win for your campaign?

A. "It's a very important state. I don't consider any state a must-win, but there are a lot of delegates here," he said. "I was born and raised in Brooklyn. Know about the city and we look forward to doing very well here."

Q. Corned beef or pastrami?

A. "Pastrami all the way."