Bernie Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in Florida's primary in 2016—and after his remarks on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, the Democratic frontrunner may again struggle to win the state this time around. Sanders, asked about his 1985 remark that Cubans didn't rise up against Fidel Castro because "he educated their kids, gave their kids health care, totally transformed society," said that while he is opposed to authoritarianism, it is "unfair to simply say everything is bad." He added: "When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing?" Politico reports that Democrats in the state, which has a large Cuban-American population, are now trying to distance themselves from the candidate, fearing he could cost them the election in November.
"I'm totally disgusted and insulted," Lourdes Diaz, president of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus in Broward County, tells the New York Times. Rivals including Pete Buttigieg also condemned the remarks. "After four years of looking on in horror as Trump cozied up to dictators, we need a president who will be extremely clear in standing against regimes that violate human rights abroad," Buttigieg tweeted. In a statement, the Sanders campaign said the candidate's remarks should not be considered praise for Castro, the Miami Herald reports. Sanders "has clearly and consistently criticized Fidel Castro’s authoritarianism and condemned his human rights abuses, and he’s simply echoing President Obama’s acknowledgment that Cuba made progress, especially in education," the campaign said. (Read more Bernie Sanders 2020 stories.)