In an uncomfortable exchange with CNN’s Erin Burnett Tuesday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) twice dismissed reports the FBI is actively investigating his wife, Jane Sanders, for fraudulent activities as president of Burlington College.
“My wife is about the most honest person I know,” claimed Sanders, cutting off Burnett’s initial line of questioning. “When she came to that college it was failing financially and academically. When she left it, it was in better shape than it had ever been.”
Sanders is said to have falsely secured bank loans while leading Burlington College. In an effort to fund a land purchase, Sanders reportedly signed loan papers claiming the college had confirmed donations of $1.2 million, when in fact it had fewer than $300,000 in confirmed donations.
“In hindsight, it’s hard to avoid blaming Jane Sanders for the Burlington College fiasco. She took over a struggling-but-functioning institution and set it on a course that led to its demise,” wrote Harry Jaffe for Politico.
But Jaffe’s extensive article on the Sanders investigation also makes it clear that Sen. Sanders himself is involved — Jaffe reports that Sander’s office allegedly had pressured the very bank Jane Sanders may have defrauded into issuing the loan in the first place.
According to Sanders, the investigation is politically motivated.
“Just at the moment, coincidentally no doubt, when I am a candidate for president of the United States … [the] vice chairman of the Republican Party in Vermont launched this investigation,” said Sanders.
“So all that I will tell you now, Erin, is [that] it is a sad state of affairs in America, not only when we have politicians being destroyed, when there are attacks against elected officials, [but] when you go after people’s wives, that is pretty pathetic, and that’s where we are right now, and that’s about all that I’m going to say,” Sanders said.
Despite Sanders’ refusal to comment fully on the matter, Burnett made a last attempt to get a substantive response from the Vermont senator. It was equally as unsuccessful.
“That’s all that I want to say and will let it play out,” Sanders retorted, “but I think it’s fairly pathetic that when people are involved in public life it’s not only that they get attacked, but it’s their wives and their families.”
Sanders’ tense exchange with Burnett came only the day after similarly awkward exchanges with two other reporters. During a press conference on Monday, Sanders refused to answer a question on the subject posed by an AP reporter.
“No, that’s not what I’m talking about today,” Sanders said.
When a Fox reporter followed up, Sanders became increasingly hostile and accused the reporter of ignoring important issues.
“I’m glad that you’re interested in the fact that the Republican leadership is proposing legislation which would throw millions of people off of health insurance and give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the top one percent,” Sanders told the reporter.