Two days before five states, including Ohio, are set to cast their primary ballots, Democratic presidential candidates took the stage at Ohio State’s Mershon Auditorium for a town hall hosted by CNN and TV One on Sunday night.
CNN’s Jake Tapper and TV One’s Roland Martin moderated the event. Questions came from the anchors as well as audience members.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was the first candidate to take the stage, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared in the second hour. Tapper’s first question to both Sanders and Clinton dealt with the violence at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent rallies.
When asked about Trump blaming Sanders’ supporters for the violence at Trump’s recent rallies, Sanders said, “Donald Trump is a pathological liar.”
Sanders also noted that while he can’t be held responsible for everything every one of his supporters does, he would never encourage violent behavior from his supporters.
“I never have and never will condone violence,” he said.
When the the topic was brought up to Clinton, she said Trump incited violence by telling his supporters he would pay their legal expenses if they got into fights with protesters.
“There’s just so much of what he’s doing that I think we all have to reject,” she said. “What Trump has done is like a case of political arson.”
Clinton compared the businessman’s response to violence at his rally as him starting a fire but throwing his hands up and not claiming responsibility.
Both candidates also received questions from an audience member about who would be the best candidate to go up against Trump and about specifics of their anti-Trump strategy.
Sanders pointed to the polls for the answer, saying many indicate that he does better against Trump by a larger margin than Clinton.
When asked the same question by radiologist Amit Majmudar of Dublin, Ohio, who said he is a son of immigrant parents, Clinton pointed to her experience going up against Republicans.
She said the Republicans have been after her for 25 years.
“There isn’t anything that they haven’t already said to me,” Clinton said, adding that she believes this will help her in what she thinks will be the “highest-stakes election.”
One question posed to Sanders from the audience came from Charles Noble, a program director for My Brother’s Keeper. Noble asked Sanders how he would ensure that international trade deals promote U.S. job growth in minority, rural and impoverished areas.
Sanders emphasized that he would work to make sure the U.S. is successful in trade while also making sure trade policies fit all citizens.
“We will develop an entirely new set of trade policies not written by corporate America for corporate America,” Sanders said.
Crystal Oertle, an audience member who is in recovery for heroin addiction, brought up the issue of drug policies.
“What we have to do is fundamentally rethink the so-called ‘war on drugs,’” Sanders said in response.
Sanders called for looking at substance abuse as a mental health issue, not a criminal issue.
Clinton faced a question from audience member Teresa O’Donnell, who said she wants to vote Democrat but doesn’t know if she can because of rising costs she said she’s faced as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
“I want very much to get the cost down, and that is going to be my mission,” Clinton said.
Clinton said she believes the Affordable Care Act has done a lot of “really good things,” such as reducing costs in most cases and guaranteeing insurance. However, she said she wants to work to reduce cost for everyone if elected president.
Tapper introduced a question by an anti-fracking activist, Christine Hughes, about Ohio not allowing fracking bans and how to handle farmers’ and communities’ concerns.
Clinton said she will do everything she can to regulate it, but she said promising to get rid of it completely would be unrealistic.
“We need much more scientific research,” she said. Clinton added that though researchers know of a few problems associated with fracking now, they need to be sure of everything in the future to make sure they don’t allow it going forward.
The town hall was one of several presidential candidate appearances that took place in Columbus on Sunday. Earlier in the evening, Sanders held a rally at the Schottenstein Center. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz also held a rally Sunday evening at the Northland Performing Arts Center.