Sanders Accepts Clinton Camp's Accusation He Campaigns ‘Like I Was a Brooklynite'

Sanders discusses his upbringing in a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn in an interview with NBC 4 New York

Bernie Sanders kicked off his campaign for the New York Democratic primary with a rally in the South Bronx Thursday. 

The rally was held in Saint Mary's Park on St. Ann's Avenue. Actress Rosario Dawson, director Spike Lee and Grammy-winning rapper "Residente" helped introduce him.

Sanders is reaching into Hillary Clinton's base as he courts voters of color. Donna Francis, a South Bronx resident and Clinton supporter, said she is looking forward to hearing Sanders' message. But she admitted she doubted he'd get her vote.

"I'm for Hillary all the way so we'll see," she said. "He'll have to sweep me off my feet, tell me something I haven't heard before.

Despite the challenges, Sanders said he was looking forward to campaigning in New York. 

"I lived here the first 18 years of my life and I think my accent is a bit of a giveaway," he said. "I understand I've been attacked and criticized by the Clinton people for campaigning 'like I was a Brooklynite.' Well, I accept that." 

Meanwhile, Clinton and husband Bill were stumping in the tri-state Thursday. Hillary addressed a crowd at SUNY Purchase in Westchester County and former-president Bill Clinton was expected to meet with four separate labor groups in midtown Manhattan.

At the rally in Purchase, the former secretary of State gave a spirited defense of her campaign proposals and her lead in the Democratic primaries after she was disrupted by a group of Bernie Sanders supporters ahead of her home state's primary.

A few minutes into Clinton's remarks on the campus of Purchase College, about 20 Sanders supporters shouted, "If she wins, we lose," and then began walking out. Clinton responded sharply, "The Bernie people came to say that. We're very sorry you're leaving," as the crowd chanted, "I'm with her!"

Clinton also told the college crowd that Sanders is misleading them.

"He goes around telling young people he's gonna give them free college. Well, I wish it were so, but go ahead and read the fine print," she said. 

Sanders told NBC 4 New York in response, "Germany can do it, Scandinavia can do it. I think the United States of America can invest in our young people." 

Asked about the statements Donald Trump made about his position on abortion Wednesday, Sanders said, "It's simply hard with every crazy statement that Donald Trump makes, but there is nobody who will defend a woman's right to choose more than Bernie Sanders." 

Sanders also said he's "very proud to be Jewish." 

"I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, I have lived in Israel, I'm a strong defender of Israel," he told NBC 4. "But let me also say this, I think we cannot continue to ignore the needs of the Palestinian people and I would hope very much that I could move us forward in what has been so intractable over the years, bringing Palestinians, bringing Israelis together, bringing peace finally to the Middle East." 

Clinton leads Sanders by 12 points in the Empire State, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

The New York Democratic primary is slated for April 19. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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