Bill Clinton Skewers Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire

Bill Clinton on Sunday accused some Bernie Sanders supporters of making sexist attacks against his wife. Pictured, the former president at a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on January 30. Adrees Latif/Reuters

For most of the 2016 presidential campaign, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has held her most formidable weapon—her spouse, former President Bill Clinton—in reserve.

While Clinton began stumping for his wife in January, he has so far refrained from the sort of bare-knuckle politicking for which he was criticized during the 2008 Democratic primary. He has even declined to criticize Donald Trump, saying, "I'm going to let him live in his alternative reality, and I'm not going to respond." Trump, meanwhile, has showed no such restraint in attacking Hillary Clinton.

But in an approximately 50-minute speech Sunday in Milford, New Hampshire, Bill Clinton laid into Sanders by name, painting his campaign tactics as hypocritical and unfair and accusing some of his supporters of sexism.

Clinton described an earlier incident, in which a Sanders staffer improperly accessed voter registration data belonging to the Clinton campaign, as "grand theft," according to The New York Times. The former president said that "in private [the Sanders campaign] sent an email" saying the Democratic Party had "the keys in the car, and all I did was drive off."

Bill Clinton also continued the criticisms that Sanders is politically inexperienced, comparing the senator's liberal purism to living in a "hermetically sealed box."

He also contended that a group of fervent Sanders supporters have engaged in unfair, sexist attacks on his wife and her supporters. Joan Walsh, a columnist for The Nation, has been forced to use a pseudonym when writing online after she came out in favor of Hillary Clinton and was harassed by Sanders's supporters online, Bill Clinton said. (Walsh later said she has not used a pseudonym but does face regular harassment after coming out for Clinton.) Bill Clinton also accused some Sanders supporters of "vicious trolling and attacks that are literally too profane often, not to mention sexist, to repeat."

Whether these so-called "Bernie bros" are a unique phenomenon or are just part and parcel of the nastiness that surrounds most political campaigning in the age of the Internet is a matter of debate. Some Hillary Clinton supporters have argued that the vitriol spewed by some Sanders supporters online represents a new low. Some Sanders supporters, meanwhile, argue that she endured—and dished out—similar attacks during the 2008 Democratic primary.