Jesse Jackson Endorses Bernie Sanders, Says 'Moderate' Democrats Can't Help Black Voters

Civil rights activist and 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson is set to endorse Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at a Grand Rapids, Michigan rally Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, Sanders, who was one of the few white politicians to endorse Jackson during his 1988 presidential run, touted Jackson's founding of the Rainbow Coalition and his ability to bring white and black working class voters on several cable news outlets Sunday morning.

In a statement released by the Sanders campaign Sunday, Jackson criticized Democrats who are seeking a "moderate path," instead urging the party to be more progressive and choose Sanders as the nominee. Jackson said he is "enthusiastically endorsing" Sanders because of the senator's decades-long stance alongside the country's black community.

"With the exception of Native Americans, African Americans are the people who are most behind socially and economically in the United States and our needs are not moderate," Jackson declared, two days ahead of Michigan's Tuesday primary.

"A people far behind cannot catch up choosing the most moderate path," he also said.

Jackson won the Michigan Democratic presidential primary in 1988 but went on to lose the overall party nomination to Massachusetts' Michael Dukakis. "The most progressive social and economic path gives us the best chance to catch up and Senator Bernie Sanders represents the most progressive path. That's why I choose to endorse him today."

Sanders surrogate Shaun King claimed that a 1988 staffer from Jackson's presidential campaign said of Biden: "We hated Joe Biden's ass. He mistreated us that entire campaign. He would only tell those lies about marching and doing sit-ins in the Civil Rights Movement when he wasn't around Jesse."

Jackson took on Biden's claim of having a "black firewall" among the Democratic Party's African-American voting bloc. He cited Sanders' support of a wealth tax and Medicare for All as issues black voters should stand in solidarity with alongside his campaign. "That's some of what the firewall needs and that Senator Sanders has committed himself to, and that's why I can enthusiastically endorse Senator Bernie Sanders today," Jackson added in the statement.

NEW: Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. endorses Bernie Sanders for president.

He will join Sanders for a campaign rally this afternoon in Grand Rapids.

Full statement: pic.twitter.com/a3cZDbT1Lu

— Mark Cavitt (@MarkCavitt) March 8, 2020

Jackson revealed that former Vice President Joe Biden, who has enjoyed large support from African-American voters, particularly in the South, never reached out to him or asked for an endorsement.

Speaking with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos Sunday, Sanders touted Jackson's endorsement and appealed to black voters to get behind his progressive campaign.

"Later on today, we're going to have the support, I believe here in Grand Rapids, of Jesse Jackson. Jesse has been one of the great civil rights leasers in the modern history of this country," Sanders said. "He changed American politics with the concept of the Rainbow Coalition -- getting the blacks and whites and Latinos together in '84 and '88. He's been a leader in helping to transform this country, an aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so we're proud."

California Senator Kamala Harris endorsed Biden on Sunday, which Sanders told ABC News was not particularly surprising because the elected Democratic establishment has made clear they are not going to throw their support behind his campaign.

Jackson is set to stump for Sanders' presidential campaign in Grand Rapids, Michigan Sunday afternoon. Sanders won the Michigan Democratic primary against Hillary Clinton in 2016 -- a state she went on to lose against President Donald Trump in the general election.

bernie sanders jesse jackson endorsement
Civil rights activist and 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson is set to endorse Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at a Grand Rapids, Michigan rally Sunday afternoon. SCOTT OLSON / Staff/Getty Images