Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders sought to put behind him a strange episode concerning a bizarre piece of fiction he authored four decades ago, likening the work to Fifty Shades of Grey during his appearance on NBC's Meet the Press.

Answering a question from the show's host, Chuck Todd, the Vermont lawmaker said, "This is a piece of fiction that I wrote in 1972, I think. That was 43 years ago. It was very poorly written.

"If you read it, it was dealing with gender stereotypes. Why some men like to oppress women. Why other women like to be submissive. You know, something like Fifty Shades of Grey. Very poorly written. Forty-three years ago."

The 1972 essay was uncovered by Mother Jones magazine. It was written by Sanders for the Vermont Freeman, an alternative newspaper, and discusses a rape fantasy from a man and a woman's point of view.

Sanders' remarks on NBC today largely echo what his campaign spokesman Michael Briggs told CNN last week. Briggs said it was a "dumb attempt at dark satire in an alternative publication" and added that it was "intended to attack gender stereotypes of the '70s, but it looks as stupid today as it was then."

As NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben wrote last week: "You can draw divergent conclusions from the article itself. On the one hand, he's talking about liberating people from harmful gender norms. On the other, with his nameless hypothetical "man-and-woman" characters, he also seems to imply that men fantasize about raping women or that women fantasize about being raped."

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