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Bernie Sanders, 81, slams GOP presidential hopeful who proposed competency testing for elderly politicians

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) slammed GOP former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's proposal to require mental competency testing for politicians over age 75. Sanders made the remarks during an interview with Margaret Brennan on "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

"I think that's absurd," Sanders told Brennan, when asked whether he agreed with or was offended by Haley's proposal.

Sanders, as a joke, initially pretended not to understand Brennan's question. "What did she mean? I don't understand what. . ."

"Yeah, you know, we are fighting racism; we're fighting sexism; we're fighting homophobia. I think we should also be fighting ageism," Sanders told Brennan, expounding on his objection to Haley's proposal, and suggesting it stemmed from age-related bias.

"Trust people, look at people and say, you know, this person is competent, this person is not competent," Sanders also said.

"There are a lot of 40 year olds out there who ain't particularly competent. Older people, you know, you look at the individual, I don't think you make a blanket statement," the senator concluded.

Sanders, 81, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991-2007 and in the U.S. Senate since 2007. He describes himself as a democratic socialist, and has repeatedly and unsuccessfully run for the Democratic nomination for president.

Haley, 51, announced her intention to run in the GOP's presidential primary the week before Sanders' statement. In her speech, she called for testing the mental competency of politicians over age 75.

"In the America I see, the permanent politician will finally retire. We’ll have term limits for Congress and mandatory mental competency test for politicians over 75 years old," Haley said last Wednesday, to the applause of the crowd gathered to hear her official announcement.

President Joe Biden, 80, is Democrats' presumed nominee for the 2024 race. Former President Donald Trump, 76, announced his 2024 White House bid on November 15, 2022. Haley's comment may have been directed at either, both, or neither men.

Both Biden's and Trump's mental competency has been debated on multiple occasions by those within and outside their respective parties.

Nikki Haley, a Republican, served as South Carolina's governor from 2011-2017. She served as the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations and as a Cabinet member during former President Trump's administration.

Watch the full "Face the Nation" interview with Sen. Sanders below.

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