Mike Bloomberg Campaign Deletes Series of Satirical Tweets Saying Bernie Sanders Loves Dictators

The presidential campaign team for Michael Bloomberg has been criticised for sharing now deleted tweets which mocked the measured praise that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders had given to the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Sanders has been on the defensive following an interview with 60 Minutes on CBS in which he said he opposed the authoritarian regime of Castro, but that following the Cuban revolution of 1959, he should be credited for implementing a mass literacy program, and that "it's unfair to simply say everything is bad."

The former New York City mayor tweeted a clip from the interview with Anderson Cooper, referring to Castro's "forced labor camps, religious repression, widespread poverty, firing squads, and the murder of thousands of his own people."

Bernie Sanders (right) Mike Bloomberg
Democratic presidential hopeful Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (R) walks past former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg during the ninth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season. The Bloomberg campaign reportedly posted tweets mocking Sanders' praise of dictators. MARK RALSTON/Getty Images

Then Team Bloomberg, the official Twitter account of the billionaire's presidential campaign, stepped into the fray, sending out tweets that were later deleted, with the hashtag #BernieOnDespots and consisting of fictitious quotes of Sanders praising other dictators.

One pretended to be about North Korea's leader, which according to a screenshot, said: "Who am I to question Kim Jong-un for starving millions of his own people, when he opened a kickass waterpark with over ten slides, a lazy river and a wave machine. What a blast!"

Another tweet, which was reported by The Washington Post, said: "Vladimir Putin is willing to poison anyone who disagrees with him, but have you seen how that guy looks without a shirt!! Mmm delish!'—#BernieOnDespots."

The campaign also sent tweets pretending to be messages by Sanders about former Ugandan despot Idi Amin, and Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin.

The Guardian reported how some users found it difficult to tell if the tweets were false. The Putin tweet was criticised by U.S. Congressional candidate Daniel Beckstrand as homophobic.

Sanders did in fact tell the CBS program broadcast on Sunday night that Putin "was not a great friend of mine," in an apparent dig at President Donald Trump's relationship with the Russian leader.

A senior national spokesperson for Bloomberg's campaign confirmed to Newsweek that the tweets had been deleted without offering further comment.

In a statement reported by The Guardian and The Advocate, a campaign spokesperson said: "To be clear—all of these are satire—with the exception of the 60 Minutes clip from last night," referring to Sunday's broadcast.

In a statement to Newsweek, Sanders' spokesperson Mike Casca said: "Senator Sanders has clearly and consistently criticized Fidel Castro's authoritarianism and condemned his human rights abuses, and he's simply echoing President Obama's acknowledgement that Cuba made progress, especially in education."

Bloomberg's 2020 campaign was revealed by The Wall Street Journal to have hired people at a cost of up to $2,500 a month to text and post support on social media for the former New York mayor.

UCLA professor Tim Groeling, an expert in political communications, told the Los Angeles Times that the money the campaign can offer for social media backing is both a sign of his considerable resources, but also signified his lack of organic grass roots support.