"I'll give you one example," Sanders said in an interview that aired Thursday on CNN's "New Day." "A recent study showed on ABC evening news, Trump over a period of time got 81 minutes of time. Bernie Sanders got 20 seconds. Now you tell me why."
Sanders continued, "I think it has to do with the fact that Trump is very smart. He knows that media is not so interested in the serious issues facing this country. They love bombastic remarks. They love silly remarks," he told host Chris Cuomo. "I think this is more of an indictment of the media than it is Trump."
But Cuomo pushed back on Sanders, arguing that Trump's coverage is reflective of his popularity in the polls.
"I don't see it," Cuomo said. "Do we cover him more? Yes. Why? He's number one in the polls. He's highly relevant. He drives the discussion."
But Sanders -- who is trailing Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton 34% to 50% in a CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday
-- interrupted Cuomo to say that Trump is on top because he is able to get his message out due to all of the media coverage.
"But Chris, explain to me how he becomes number one," Sanders said. "He says, 'I don't even have to pay for commercials. The media's going to put me on all the time.' "
"I know CNN may be different here," Sanders added. "But you explain to me how a major network on the evening news has 80 minutes of Trump and 20 seconds of Bernie Sanders. Does that make sense to anyone?"
Trump is good for ratings, Cuomo acknowledged.
"There's no question that Trump drives ratings and that's always an influence in everything that we do," the CNN host said. "But you can't just wipe off all this popularity that he has with a growing base of the GOP. They're putting him first in the polls not because of the media. They say they hate the media. They just love Trump."
Sanders acknowledged that Trump is popular, but called him a demagogue whose appeal is based on playing into people's fears.
"I think that Trump is very effectively playing to the fears and anxieties that millions of people in this country have -- and have legitimately so," Sanders said.
"We're all concerned about the possibility of a terrorist attack in this country. We're all concerned about ISIS. We're all concerned about a disappearing middle class," Sanders added. "They're worried to death about their kids and they're worried about the economy.
"And Trump comes along and he says, 'I've got the solution. And what the solution is Mexicans coming to this country. Let's throw them all out. That will solve all our problems. It's Muslims. They're all terrorists. We have to hate them,'" Sanders said. "Well, that is not the solution to our problems. That is simply scapegoating minorities, playing one group off against one another. It's what demagogues have always done."
"But what we've got to do is come together and say, 'Why is it that the middle class is disappearing?' " Sanders said. "And sometimes Chris, to be honest with you, it can't be done in a six-second soundbite."