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The Media Desperately Wants Bernie Sanders to Attack Clinton

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

On September 15, The Hill published a story with the headline, "Bernie Sanders goes on the attack against Hillary Clinton." Now, this is a big deal because up until now Sanders has promised not to go negative against his primary rival. The media has goaded him time and time again to say something, but Sanders has thus far refused.

"In an email to campaign supporters on Tuesday, Sanders linked Clinton to three things her campaign has been trying to disassociate itself from: Wealthy donors, dirty tactics and, yes, even the biggest boogeymen in left-wing American politics — the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch," The Hill reports.

Linking a Democratic rival to the Koch brothers is a low blow. So, did Bernie Sanders cross that line? Did he break his vow? Is his campaign just like any other partisan presidential campaign we have grown accustomed to seeing in elections?

Here are the quotes The Hill took from the email:

"Yesterday, one of Hillary Clinton’s most prominent Super PACs attacked our campaign pretty viciously.   "They suggested I’d be friendly with Middle East terrorist organizations, and even tried to link me to a dead communist dictator.   "It was the kind of onslaught I expected to see from the Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson, and it’s the second time a billionaire Super PAC has tried to stop the momentum of the political revolution we’re building together."

The one reference to Hillary Clinton was mentioning that the super PAC, Correct the Record, backed the former secretary of state -- a connection the media acknowledges, including The Hill. In fact, if you go to the the super PAC's website, it is pretty clear they unabashedly support Clinton.

Sanders doesn't draw a direct connection between Hillary Clinton and the Koch brothers. He doesn't mention her campaign at all. Instead, the focus of the email -- aside from capitalizing on a major fundraising opportunity -- is on the PAC itself.

Read More: Bernie Sanders Defies Media: I Am Not Going to Play Your Game

It is a mistake to say that rebuking a super PAC's attack on a candidate, which included linking Sanders to controversial remarks made by the UK's new Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn (including Corbyn's praise of Hugo Chavez), is an attack on the candidate they support. It would be akin to running a headline that read, Hillary Clinton Links Bernie Sanders to Communist Dictator.

A candidate is not directly responsible for the actions of a super PAC that supports them, just like a rebuke on said super PAC is not necessarily a direct attack on the candidate they support.

However, the whole thing turned out to be a golden opportunity for Sanders' campaign to do some fundraising.

"Toward the end of the email, Sanders gets to his point: "Make the Super PACs pay for attacking us by making a $3 contribution to our campaign today. Let’s send a powerful message that we have had ENOUGH of the billionaire class buying elections," The Hill reports.

And it was an effective fundraising push. The New York Times reported Thursday that Sanders brought in over $1 million in small-dollar donations off two email solicitations, much of which came in increments of less than $10, according to Sanders' campaign.

Still, the media is not likely to cease its efforts to get Sanders to attack Clinton. From CNN to The Washington Post to The Hill, it almost seems like some outlets are reaching a point of desperation, including stretching, bending, or completely ignoring the truth to spin the rhetoric they want people to hear.

But then again, what's new?

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