Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., denied ever disparaging millionaires on Monday soon after the contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination released 10 years' worth of tax returns showing his own wealth.
"I don't vilify," Sanders said during a Fox News town hall after being pressed on his past statements about a "rigged economy" that benefits the country's top 1% of earners.
"The fact that I think people who are doing phenomenally well, for 40 years we have seen a shrinking middle class, you've got 40 million people living in poverty and today just so happens that the very wealthy are doing incredibly well," he added. "It's not vilifying to say that people have a whole lot of money, and in some cases billions of dollars of wealth, they should pay their fair share of taxes."
The live televised event, hosted in Bethlehem, Pa., aired shortly after the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate disclosed a decade of financial information, including his 2016 tax returns which revealed he brought in $1 million that year. During his last bid for the White House, he only published his 2014 tax filings.
Co-anchor Bret Baier quizzed Sanders on how he benefited from President Trump and congressional Republicans' tax reform, to which the senator said he did not vote for the tax code overhaul.
"Your marginal tax rate was 26% because of President Trump's tax cuts. So why not say, I'm leading this revolution, I'm not going to take those?" Baier asked.
"Come on. I pay the taxes that I owe," Sanders replied.
The other co-anchor, Martha MacCallum, then asked Sanders whether he would pay the 52% he has suggested for the top bracket.
"Martha, why don't you give, you make more money than I do?" Sanders asked.
"She's not running for president," Baier interjected.
Sanders currently sits in second place for the Democratic nomination, according to the latest RealClearPolitics polling average. He trails former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to announce a presidential run, by a little less than 10 percentage points.
[Related: Sanders defends his $1M: 'I didn't know that it was a crime to write a good book']