Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton and her rival Bernie Sanders ratcheted up their attacks in a bruising, final debate in Brooklyn, New York, as he cast doubt on her judgment and she criticised his command of policy and record on guns
The debate was hosted by TV channels CNN and NY1 News and came only a few days before New York’s critical primary on April 19. It’s the first debate the two Democratic candidates have done in over a month.
Sanders delivered first opening statement where he accused Clinton of “lacking the kind of judgment we need to be the kind of president we need.” But he found himself on defence for not releasing his taxes and said he would do so on Friday, CNN reported.
Clinton again found herself in the spotlight for her paid speeches to big banks, declining to release the transcripts when pressed by CNN moderators. But she counterpunched by referring to Sanders’ trouble explaining some of his core policies in an interview with the New York Daily News.
The debate was the most combative yet, with the two delivering harsh attacks that at points needed intervention from the moderators.
The event, held just across the river from Wall Street, in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, quickly turned to the issue of the big banks and their perceived excesses.
When asked to name a single policy decision Clinton made as senator that showed she was favouring the banks, Sanders said that when the “greed and recklessness and illegal behaviour of Wall Street” led to the financial crisis, he had called on the big banks to be broken up — while Clinton was “busy giving speeches to Goldman Sachs.”
Clinton shot back saying, “He cannot come up with any example because there is no example … It’s always important — it may be inconvenient — but it’s always important to get the facts straight.”
The two also displayed intense friction over gun control. Throughout the campaign, Clinton has criticized Sanders’ record in Congress on gun control — an attack she once again made forcefully on Thursday night.
When asked Clinton if she was seriously blaming Vermont for New York’s gun violence in a recent statement, she said “no” and Sanders started to laugh.
She said this is “not a laughing matter” and said 90 people a day are killed as a result of gun violence as well as 33,000 people per year.
“We need a president who will stand up against the gun lobby,” Clinton said.
The heated debate quickly exposed tensions on the issue of income inequality — specifically, raising the minimum wage.
Sanders expressing surprise as Clinton voiced support for efforts to set the hourly pay rate at $15, the level he has long backed.
“I don’t know how you’re there for the fight for 15 when you say you want a $12 minimum wage,” he said.
Clinton then clarified that while she does support a $12 per hour federal minimum wage, she would sign legislation raising that level to $15.
The location of the debate, across the East River from Manhattan, make it a home-turf battle for both candidates.
Clinton served as a New York senator for eight years and Brooklyn is the location of her campaign headquarters, while Sanders was born and raised in the borough.
Polls show Clinton is likely to defeat Sanders in New York. A Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday found 53 percent of likely Democratic voters back her while 40 percent said they are for Sanders.