Dr. Paul Song, an oncologist and outspoken advocate for single-payer health care in the U.S., told tens of thousands of Sanders supporters on Wednesday, "Medicare for all will never happen if we continue to elect corporate Democratic whores, who are beholden to Big Pharma and the private-insurance industry instead of us."
Some critics took Song's remarks as a jab at Sanders' rival, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. His choice of words prompted outrage on Twitter, spurring the hash tags #WhoAreYouCallingAWhoreBernie and #DemocraticWhores.
Song later apologized on Twitter, saying his words weren't aimed at Clinton, but rather at certain members of Congress.
I am very sorry for using the term "whore" to refer to some in congress who are beholden to corporations and not us. It was insensitive.— Paul Y. Song (@paulysong) April 14, 2016
Sanders also weighed in on social media, tweeting Thursday, "Dr. Song's comment was inappropriate and insensitive. There's no room for language like that in our political discourse."
The incident came just one day before Sanders' planned debate with Clinton in Brooklyn on Thursday.
The two Democrats will face off in a one-on-one debate on CNN ahead of the critical New York primary on Tuesday. The contest is a particularly personal one for both candidates – Sanders was born and raised in Brooklyn, while Clinton served as the state's senator for eight years and put her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn. The most recent polls show that Clinton is still leading Sanders by 10 to 13 points, although Sanders has cut into her lead in recent weeks, according to The Washington Post.
Sanders, who has prided himself on running a positive campaign, has ramped up attacks on Clinton in recent weeks. Earlier this month he said Clinton was "not qualified to be president." He later toned down his remarks, saying that while Clinton does have the experience to be president, "something is clearly lacking" when it comes to her "judgement."