UPDATE: 10:30 p.m. EDT -- Bernie Sanders' camp reportedly sent out a fundraising email minutes after the Vermont senator said at Tuesday's Democratic debate that policy issues should take Americans' focus, not former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's unfolding email scandal. The message, sent by campaign manager Jeff Weaver, said Sanders got "the biggest applause of the night" for his comment that people are "sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails."
"This campaign should be about the grotesque levels of income and wealth inequality in our country, the unprecedented planetary emergency of our changing climate, and our need to invest in jobs and education, not jails and incarceration," Sanders' email read. It ended: "Chip in to show your love for Bernie tonight."
Bernie fundraising off defense of HRC’s emails from earlier pic.twitter.com/SqJlCN4byN
— Stefan Becket (@stefanjbecket) October 14, 2015
Hillary Clinton's campaign also had a rapid response:
— Ruby Cramer (@rubycramer) October 14, 2015
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., tackled Democratic presidential rival and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email scandal head-on at Tuesday's debate. And in what's surely going to be a viral sound bite by morning, he took her side.
"Let me say something that may not be great politics," Sanders said after CNN moderator Anderson Cooper posed a question to Clinton about whether her sidestepping of the controversy on the campaign trail foretold how she would handle challenges if elected president. "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails."
The comment came after Clinton was forced to defend her use of a personal email server during her time as secretary of state -- which she said Tuesday was technically allowed but not "the best choice." She mentioned she had turned over about 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department and decried the recurring discussion about the scandal as a Republican political ploy. Clinton finished by saying, "I want to talk not about my emails but about what the American people want."
That's when Sanders jumped in. He went on to say that the middle class is in danger, with 27 million people living in poverty and the American public wondering what's going to happen to the nation's democracy, so the email issue shouldn't dominate the debate. "Enough of the emails; let's talk about the real issues," he said.
When asked for his thoughts, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee went on the offensive. He said the next president needs to have ethical standards and credibility, and Clinton's email situation was a cause for concern. Clinton declined to respond.
Clinton, Sanders and Chafee joined former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb Tuesday for the first Democratic debate, held in Las Vegas and hosted by CNN.
Before Tuesday night's debate, Clinton was leading the polls with 45.6 percent support among likely Democratic primary voters, according to the aggregate HuffPost Pollster. Behind her was Sanders, with 24.4 percent, and Vice President Joe Biden -- who has not definitively said whether he'll run next year -- in third with 19.1 percent. O'Malley and Webb were both backed by about 1 percent of Democratic voters, beating out Chafee's 0.6 percent. Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig was not invited to the debate due to low poll numbers.
The next Democratic debate was set for Nov. 14 in Des Moines, Iowa. There are GOP debates scheduled for Oct. 28 in Boulder, Colorado, and Nov. 10 in Milwaukee.