(CNN) — Bernie Sanders defended not talking about ISIS on Tuesday, moments after his national press secretary walked into a press conference and asked reporters not to ask questions about the terrorist group.
Symone Sanders, Sanders’ spokeswoman, walked into a press conference room shortly before the senator wrapped up a roundtable on urban poverty and Black Lives Matters. After outlining the topics that the group spoke about, Symone Sanders said, “Don’t ask about ISIS today.”
Press aides regularly outline the topic of meetings, but it is unusual for them to outline what questions reporters can and can’t ask.
The refrain came at an inopportune time for Sanders, too. After inspiring the terrorist attacks abroad and more recently in the U.S. in San Bernardino, ISIS has dramatically altered the 2016 campaign to be more focused on foreign policy and terror.
And Sanders has been forced to defend the fact that his campaign routinely focuses solely on economic issues.
Sanders did just that during the press conference when reporters were asked not to ask about ISIS.
“Guys, how often are these people taking about the issues we talked about today?” Sanders asked, responding to a question from CNN and laughing at the assumption that he doesn’t want to talk about ISIS. “Of course I will talk about ISIS, but today what we are talking about is a community, in which, half of the people don’t have jobs.”
He added, “You want to ask me about ISIS? We will talk about ISIS. But what I said, and let me repeat, you can agree with me or not, what I have said is that obviously ISIS and terrorism are a huge national issue that we have got to address, but so is poverty, so is unemployment, so is education, so is healthcare, so is the need to protect working families. And I will continue to talk about those issues.”
Sanders’ campaign has faced scrutiny before for reportedly wanting to avoid questions related to foreign policy. When organizers wanted to change a debate to put more of a focus on terrorism last month — following the Paris terror attacks — an aide to Sanders reportedly “threw a fit.” Sanders’ campaign later rejected the depiction, saying the discrepancy was in regards to the debate’s format and not the content of the questions.
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