Sen. Bernie Sanders discusses his speech at Liberty University last week.
MADDOW: You went to Liberty University this week. Very ideologically unfriendly territory. You were, I listened to the speech, you were very respectful to your audience. They greeted you very respectfully.
SANDERS: Yes, they did.
MADDOW: They heard you respectfully. With Donald Trump so dominant in the Republican field, I wonder if you are starting to think about a plan for trying to appeal to people who think of themselves not as liberals, not even as centrists, but as moderate conservatives that usually think of themselves as Republicans, but they cannot stomach somebody like Mr. Trump as their nominee. Do you have a crossover appeal?
SANDERS: Absolutely. And, Rachel, to the best of my knowledge in the state of Vermont, we got about 25 percent of the Republican vote. Why is that? Because people say, okay, I disagree with Bernie on women's rights. I disagree with Bernie on gay rights. Okay. But you know what? I believe he is fighting for my kids and for my parents and for the rights of the middle class. And you see a lot of those folks saying, I disagree with him, but I'm going to vote for them.
Now, you're absolutely right. The folks at Liberty University were extremely gracious and respectful. And here was my simple point to them. You guys are a religious group of people. You are concerned about morality. Let's put it on the table. I disagree with you on abortion rights. I disagree with you on gay rights. End of discussion.
How do we come together? Isn't it a moral issue that in America today, we are seeing a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth? Isn't that a moral issue?
MADDOW: Even if you're a conservative, you would see that as a moral issue.
SANDERS: Absolutely. It is. I think many of them are saying yes. And we've gotten some wonderful responses from some of the evangelicals. Isn't it a moral issue? Listen to what the pope says, what other religious leaders, evangelicals say, about destroying this planet in terms of climate change. These people understand it. They see it as God's earth and it should be protected. And yet you have Republicans out there, not one of them believing that we have to move aggressively to save the planet. Yes, I think we can reach out in a respectful way, understanding there are very important issues we disagree on. Let's go forward together where we can find common ground.