Fact Check

Bernie Sanders: 'I'd Never Tell My Supporters How to Vote'

After Hillary Clinton won the 2016 Democratic primary, rumors circulated that Bernie Sanders informed his supporters that if he ever told them whom to vote for, they shouldn't listen to them.

Published Aug 10, 2016

Bernie Sanders informed his supporters that he'd never tell them whom to vote for, and that if he did they shouldn't listen to him.
What's True

During an April 2016 MSNBC appearance, Sen. Bernie Sanders stated it was incumbent upon Hillary Clinton to earn the votes of his supporters.

What's False

Sanders didn't say he'd never tell his supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton.

After Hillary Clinton officially became the Democratic Party's presidential nominee in July 2016, she was endorsed by former rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, and the image shown above was popularly shared by Sanders supporters who were not enthusiastic about voting for Clinton.

According to that image, Sanders said something to the effect of "I will never tell you how to vote. If I do, don't listen to me."

We were unable to turn up any authentic quotes from Sanders that were an exact match for the rumored remark. However, the claim appeared to stem from similar statements Sanders made during an April 2016 town hall segment on MSNBC. During that appearance, an audience member asked for Sanders' opinion on staunch supporters who did not want to vote for Clinton in November, should she become the Democratic nominee:

Sanders responded at length, saying he believed Clinton had to earn his supporters' votes:

I think if we end up losing — and I hope we do not — and if Secretary Clinton wins, it is incumbent upon her to tell millions of people who right now do not believe in establishment politics or establishment economics, who have serious misgivings about a candidate who has received millions of dollars from Wall Street and other special interests.

She has got to go out to you and to millions of other people and say, yes, I think the United States should join the rest of the industrialized world and take on the private insurance companies and the greed of the drug companies and pass a Medicare for all.

I think that says Secretary Clinton, that for the young people in this country, you should not have to leave college $30,000, $50,000, $70,000 in debt because we're going to make as many other countries around the world do, public colleges and universities tuition-free. I think Secretary Clinton is going to have to explain to millions of young people and a lot of other people that climate change is a real crisis and incrementalism is just not going to solve it ... she is going to have to come on board and say, yes, I know it's hard, but I am going to take on the fossil fuel industry and pass a carbon tax.

So the -- the point that I am making is, it is incumbent upon Secretary Clinton to reach out not only to my supporters, but to all of the American people, with an agenda that they believe will represent the interests of working families, lower income people, the middle class, those of us who are concerned about the environment and not just big money interests.

Sanders prefaced his remarks by addressing the notion that he could influence his base of supporters to vote for Clinton, saying something similar in spirit to the words reproduced above:

And let me answer it, uh, in this way. Um, first, um, I think it is, you know, we are not a movement where I can snap my fingers and say to you or to anybody else what you should do, because you won't listen to me. You shouldn't. Uh, you'll make these decisions yourself.


MSNBC.   "FULL TRANSCRIPT: MSNBC Town Hall with Bernie Sanders Moderated by Chris Hayes."     25 April 2016.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.