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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said on Wednesday that he welcomed a spat with several high-profile American CEOs who criticized his rhetoric.
Sanders slammed Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam and General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt over their recent criticism of his populist economic agenda.
“I don’t want the support of McAdam, Immelt and their friends in the billionaire class. I welcome their contempt,” Sanders tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.
Earlier this week, Immelt penned an editorial in The Washington Post disputing Sanders’ claim that GE avoids paying taxes, a practice the Vermont senator said was “destroying the moral fabric” of America.
“It’s easy to make hollow campaign promises and take cheap shots in speeches and during editorial board sessions, but U.S. companies have to deliver for their employees, customers and shareholders every day,” Immelt wrote.
The CEO continued:
GE operates in the real world. We’re in the business of building real things and generating real growth for a nation that needs it now more than ever. I’m proud of all that we do, and how it all figures into “the moral fabric” of America is so plain to me. It seems Sen. Sanders is missing the point.
Earlier on Wednesday, McAdam published a similar post on LinkedIn criticizing Sanders’ comments about the company. He also disputed Sanders’ claim that Verizon outsources jobs and skirts paying taxes.
“I understand that rhetoric gets heated in a Presidential campaign,” McAdam wrote. “I also get that big companies are an easy target for candidates looking for convenient villains for the economic distress felt by many of our citizens.”
Sanders’ tweet came as thousands of East Coast Verizon workers went on strike on Wednesday, after missing a deadline in benefits negotiations.
The candidate has long sided with the Verizon union workers in their dispute with management. One of the groups involved in the walkout, the Communications Workers of America, endorsed Sanders last year after he appeared on a picket line outside of a Verizon store in Manhattan.
The “middle class in this country is disappearing, and what Verizon is doing to their workers is exactly what has got to be fought if we’re going to rebuild the American middle class,” Sanders said in October.
Verizon did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.