Gaffe Track: That's Not the Selma Bernie Was Looking For

Jim Young / Reuters
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: Bernie Sanders

The gaffe: Today, March 7, is the 60th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when state troopers beat civil-rights marchers coming over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Seeking to mark the occasion, Sanders tweeted, “Bloody Sunday was about showing the entire world how far some would go to prevent African-Americans from voting,” along with a photo. As Twitter users quickly pointed out, that image, here via Politwoops, isn’t from the march—it’s from the acclaimed 2014 film Selma. Close, but no cigar!

The defense: Critics did praise Selma for its realism.

Why it matters (or doesn’t): Once again, Sanders has bobbled his African American political outreach. As usual, the question isn’t whether he has good intentions, and this isn’t nearly as egregious the Republican National Committee’s face-palm inducing 2013 claim that Rosa Parks had had helped to “end[...] racism.” But there’s a reason Hillary Clinton is winning black voters by massive margins around the country.

The lesson: As Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘Never tweet.’”