In rare televised spotlight, Greens clean up remarks on vaccines and ‘Uncle Tom’

In rare televised spotlight, Greens clean up remarks on vaccines and ‘Uncle Tom’

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Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein speaks during a 2016 Presidential Election Forum hosted by Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote and Asian American Journalists Association at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace on Aug. 12 in Las Vegas. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Green Party’s presidential ticket got a rare national audience Tuesday night, with CNN bringing Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka together for the third of its minor party “town halls.” Two prior specials with the Libertarian Party ticket had made few headlines, but proved competitive in the ratings. The Green Party special, pitched as the latest CNN event, was more daring, elevating the ticket with the least political experience in the field and the lowest level of public support.

Stein used most of the airtime to repeat her campaign’s themes, from the cancellation of student debt to the cancellation of much military spending. She told one Bernie Sanders voter that the senator had been “relegated to a very low-profile role” at the Democratic convention — which was untrue — and told another that bankers’ debt was “canceled” by the Troubled Asset Relief Program. When pressed to explain how she would force the Federal Reserve to buy student debt, Stein skittered around the details, and Baraka bailed out the segment with the suggestion that Americans “get propped up once in a while.”

But most of the challenges from moderator Chris Cuomo centered on better-established candidate gaffes. Cuomo twice asked Baraka to explain why he had referred to President Obama as an “Uncle Tom.”

“Well, it’s not good to be Uncle Tom,” he said. “There’s no good Tom, none of that. What I wanted to do was basically to tell people who had — who still had this hope in Barack Obama, that if we were concerned and serious about how we could displace white power, we had to demystify the policies and the positions of this individual. So that was how it got framed, to sort of shock people into a more critical look at this individual. And that’s how I did it. And I stand by that, even though it sounds very inflammatory and provocative, and probably very strange to this massive audience here tonight.”

Later, an audience member asked Stein to explain whether she really did question the science of vaccination. After a series of confusing answers that echoed some anti-vaccine slogans, Stein gave her clearest answer to the contrary.

“When I was practicing and following issues around immunization, which I am not now, there were concerns at the time about the mercury dose in vaccines and how kids might be loaded up in a way related to that schedule and the presence of thimerosal in the vaccines,” she said. “That’s what I was referring to, that there were legitimate questions at that time. But I understand those — you know, the thimerosal has been taken out of the vaccines, anything that would be given to a child, and it’s no longer an issue.”

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