MSNBC host Rachel Maddow challenged Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders over his critiques of fellow candidate Hillary Clinton's evolved gay marriage stance, wondering if he, too, has engaged in similar political tactics in the past.
"Obviously, in 1996 you voted 'no' as a member of the House on Defense of Marriage Act," Maddow said during an interview with Sanders earlier this week. "Ten years later, though, when you were running for Senate in Vermont, you also said that you would not support Vermont moving forward to legalize same-sex marriage."
Maddow said that she doesn't believe that Sanders was anti-gay at the time, but that he seemingly wanted to hold off on supporting gay nuptials "for politically tactical reasons."
But Sanders pushed back, explaining that Vermont was the first state in the U.S. to enact civil unions, and that the move was seen as deeply divisive within the state — a paradigm that caused him to call for caution moving forward.
"It brought forth just a whole lot of emotion and the state was torn in a way I had never seen the state torn," Sanders said. "What my view was, give us a little bit of time ... I felt that at that time ... let's take it easy for a little while."
Watch the exchange and Sanders' explanation below:
Maddow, though, wondered if this wasn't the same kind of "tactical thinking" and "political pragmatism" that drove the Clintons to support the Defense of Marriage Act before later endorsing same-sex nuptials.
Sanders countered by noting that his critique of Clinton has not necessarily been about her change-of-heart on the issue, but that he instead believes that the narrative she has created is untrue.
The former secretary of state has said that she and her husband supported the Defense of Marriage Act in an effort to stem a greater effort such as amending the U.S. Constitution in a way that would have legally solidified traditional nuptials — something that Sanders rejects.
He has dubbed this as an attempt to "rewrite history" and said that there was not a massive constitutional effort at that time.
"We live in a tough world and leadership counts," Sanders said. "It's great that people evolve and change their minds ... but it's important to stand up when the going gets tough."