Asked by PBS debate moderator Judy Woodruff if "race relations would be better under a Sanders presidency than they've been," the Vermont senator replied, "Absolutely."
"Because what we will do is say, instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires, we are going to create millions of jobs for low-income kids so they're not hanging out on street corners," he said. "We're going to make sure that those kids stay in school or are able get a college education. So I think that when you give low-income kids, African-American, white, Latino kids, the opportunities to get their lives together, they are not going to end up in jail. They're going to end up in the productive economy, which is where we want them."
Members of the Clinton campaign quickly seized on Sanders' answer, calling it a dig at President Barack Obama.
"Now Sanders is promising to do more to improve race relations than President Obama?" Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon tweeted in response, while Christina Reynolds, a top communications aide, asked
, "Wait, what?"
Others sought to tie Sanders' remark on race to another he made Wednesday, suggesting
that although Obama "made the effort," he had failed to close the gap between Americans and Congress.
"Today Bernie has attacked Obama's leadership & said race relations will be better under Pres. Sanders," Jesse Lehrich, from Clinton's rapid response team, said in a tweet.
Clinton referenced the same comment and sounded a similar attack toward the end of the debate, accusing Sanders of consistently detracting from Obama's record.
"Senator Sanders said that President Obama failed the presidential leadership test and this is not the first time he has criticized President Obama," Clinton said. "In the past, he's called him weak, he's called him a disappointment. He wrote a foreward for a book that basically argued voters should have buyer's remorse when it comes to President Obama's leadership and legacy."
"Madame Secretary," Sanders replied, "that was a low blow."
the Bill Press book, "Buyer's Remorse: How Obama let Progressives Down," writing in a blurb that it "makes the case why, long after taking the oath of office, the next president of the United States must keep rallying the people who elected him or her on behalf of progressive causes. That is the only way real change will happen. Read this book."
He did not, as Clinton stated, write a foreward.