Sanders forcefully disputes Warren’s claim that he said a woman can’t win

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders had an awkward exchange during Tuesday night’s debate over remarks she said he had made during a private meeting. CNN screenshot

During the final debate before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders doubled down on his denials that he told Sen. Elizabeth Warren that he did not think a woman could become president in 2020.

Ahead of Tuesday night’s two-hour debate in Des Moines, a rift between Sanders and his Massachusetts rival dominated the news cycle, including a back-and-forth between their respective campaigns over comments Sanders allegedly made to Warren during a private meeting surfaced in a CNN report.

Sanders was asked if he had told Warren he did not believe a woman could become president in 2020, and the Vermont senator responded that he had never said such a thing.

“Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it, and I don’t want to waste a whole lot of time on this because this is what Donald Trump and maybe some of the media want,” Sanders said.

“Anybody who knows me knows that it’s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman cannot be president to the United States,” he said.

After emphasizing again that he had never told Warren during a private December 2018 meeting that a woman could not win the upcoming election, Warren was asked what she thought when Sanders had told her this.

“I disagreed,” Warren said.

“Bernie is my friend and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie. But look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised and it’s time for us to attack it head on. And I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people’s winning record,” she said. 

“Look at the men on this stage. Collectively they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women, Amy and me. And the only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican anytime in the past 30 years is me,” Warren finished to cheers.

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This began the second part of the awkward exchange in which Sanders pointed out that he had beaten an incumbent Republican during his 1990 race.

“Thirty years ago,” Warren said. “And I said, ‘I was the only one who has beaten an incumbent Republican in 30 years.’”

“Well 30 years ago is 1990, as a matter of fact,” Sanders said before pivoting to say the main issue should be which candidate is best placed to beat President Donald Trump.

The subject of the Sanders-Warren meeting dominated political news coverage over the four days leading up to Tuesday’s debate after Politico first reported Saturday that the Sanders campaign was instructing volunteers canvassing to say the Massachusetts senator’s voting base is primarily white, affluent and well-educated. 

Following Politico’s story, CNN reported Monday on the private meeting between Sanders and Warren in which the news network alleged the Vermont senator had told the Massachusetts senator that a woman could not win the presidency.

Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager, quickly responded, calling the CNN report “a lie.”

“Everybody is coming at us right now, come at us that’s fine, but don’t spread lies about Bernie Sanders. We know who he is,” Shakir told CNN.

Sanders himself took issue with the characterization of his private conversation with Warren, saying in a statement to the press that his words had been distorted.

“It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn’t win,” Sanders said. 

The debate stage Tuesday night in Des Moines, Iowa. From left, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. CNN screenshot

“What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could,” he added.

Warren then chose to go on the record Monday evening with her account of the meeting two years ago.

“Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed,” Warren said in the statement.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which backs Warren, released a statement Monday calling for a cease-fire between the two leading progressive candidates in the Democratic presidential primary.

“Going into the debate, Warren supporters should be talking about why her inspiring agenda and popularity across the party makes her best suited to unify and energize Democrats — and win swing voters to defeat Trump. That’s where our focus will be,” the statement read.

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“This was a private meeting. We wouldn’t talk about the details if we knew them,” the committee wrote.

Fellow Democratic candidate for president and entrepreneur Andrew Yang wrote on Twitter Tuesday that the back-and-forth between the two politicians was an unnecessary distraction from policy issues.

“Watching this Elizabeth-Bernie  dynamic is upsetting,” Yang said. “We have big problems to solve and both want to solve them. I’m sure that’s where they would want our attention focused too.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, defended Sanders, saying she also met with the Vermont independent before launching her 2020 bid.

“In that meeting, he showed me the greatest respect and encouragement, just as he always has,” Gabbard wrote on Twitter. 

Neither Sanders nor Warren seemed to want to make their spat the focus of attention ahead of the debate. 

In the run-up to Tuesday evening, the Sanders campaign signaled it was more interested in going after Biden during the debate, sending emails to supporters attacking the former vice president for his record on the Iraq War and voting for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, right, makes a point while former vice president Joe Biden looks on. CNN screenshot

Warren’s team meanwhile was telling its supporters to back away from criticizing Sanders for sexism, according to BuzzFeed News. A Warren campaign official told fans and volunteers in a large group chat on Twitter Tuesday morning the plan was to deescalate the situation.

“I would be careful with the ‘sexism’ angle when it comes to the Bernie/Warren exchange individually — that’s not what this is about and I think it’ll be really bad news for us if that becomes what this is about (i.e. press asking her if she thinks Bernie is sexist),” the aide wrote.

“Is that what this is about broadly? Absolutely. But no one here is actually claiming Bernie himself is sexist (regardless of your own personal beliefs on that topic),” BuzzFeed News reported the staffer writing.

With the U.S. Senate poised to take up the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the coming weeks,  Sens. Sanders, Warren and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are expected to be mostly off the campaign trail for several weeks, adding pressure on the candidates to perform well in the final debate before the Iowa caucuses.

Sanders was well positioned before the debate and has enjoyed a surge in recent weeks. He leads the field in Iowa with 20%, according to the latest poll from the Des Moines Register, and placed second in a recent Boston Herald poll on the New Hampshire primary. 

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pat hurley

she has no problem lying to advance her agenda. past claims by her prove it

Deb Richter

Senator Warren should be ashamed of herself. She will lose votes because of this. Instead of debating the issues she has chosen to deliver this low blow. Anyone who knows Bernie Sanders well know he holds the utmost respect for women and would never imply they are incapable of winning a presidential election. I’m not sure she is still even my second choice now.

Tom Sullivan

“Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., appeared not shake hands and shared a brief conversation after the Democratic presidential debate. The two “clashed over Sanders’ apparent comments to Warren that he did not believe a woman could win the election”


John Stapleton

Well this is interesting. Two liberals and CNN caught up in another lie. Who would have guessed.

Isaac Parenteau

This is only hurting Warren and strengthening Bernie. She is playing identity politics which most people don’t care for. They just want a candidate that takes a position and sticks with it instead of pandering to select groups. Bernie’s message has been the same throughout his whole career while Warren has flipped so many times I don’t know where she stands. She sees Bernie doing well in the polls and her numbers are slipping so she goes on this attack to try to bolster her support, not going to work.

Marie Parker

All the these candidates are not good for our country and really have no substance, unless you like free stuff. Which , nothing is truly free.

Also, Warren going after Bernie as she has done is not helping her at all. Bye-bye Warren.

Steve Allen

As an interesting side note, Bernie better get a handle on who is working for him.


Russell Paul

Tom Perez, the head of the DNC, would like to have both progressive candidates out of the way to make room for the re-animated corpse of the Obama years in Joe Biden to stumble forward and get the nomination. So as long as this knife fight between Sanders and Warren is a quick one Perez and the DNC Wall Street paymasters will be happy.

Noam Chomsky made the observation a while ago that we really only have one political party in the USA, it’s called the “Business Party” as both republicans and Democrats feed at the same trough of corporate money and have allowed the corporate capture of government and all regulatory agencies .

Both Warren and Sanders may be fudging on what happened during their conversation. But it is nothing compared to the unending stream of lies that comes out of Trump’s mouth on an hourly basis. Evidently corruption in plain sight is fine for Trump supporters and is deemed patriotic.

Tony Redington

To me, Bernie was defensive and his reaching out to shake her hand while Elizabeth withheld her along with Bernie’s being flustered about the lie and/or “elite” description in documented Bernie campaign talking points clearly ended him on the negative side in the truthiness department.

Bud Haas

I agree with Steve Allen. I had a Piermont, NH friend tell me last week about a Vermont Bernie volunteer lecturing him after he told the person that he was voting for Warren.

Laura Stone

Few are seeing the point here- did Bernie really say such a thing?
After reading his article that he wrote in the 70s in the Vermont publication about how women fantasize about being gang raped- I can totally see him saying such a thing.
There are now videos of him surfacing of his time spent in the Soviet Union..
Bernie just is what he is- which is his right to be- but is this what is right for America? A man that went for a honeymoon to the Soviet Union and had quite a great time there? and how has he done for Vermont? the state is depopulating and on the verge of crisis on several fronts.
Who thinks running the entire country in the same manner as a depopulating state is a good idea?
Bernie would have little support out there nationally if the country knew what was going on in Vermont- naturally the media has no interest in pointing people to his record and what he’s done to his own state.

Tim Vincent

I love it.
Democrats getting caught up in their own speech censorship and identity politics.
Maybe Sanders said:
A shrill harridan can’t win.

John Shaplin

The assertion of ‘Woke” politics and Twitter campaigns proved a disaster for Cynthia Nixon in her primary campaign against Cuomo, who won by an unprecedented margin. And in fact the dust-up between ‘The Bernie Bros’ and ‘Camp Warren’ has been going on for months, its not just a case of ‘excess’ enthusiasm by this or that campaign worker. The mass of voters don’t care much for it, or even know much about it. Of all the relatives that comes right to mind (my wife’s and my own) only 1 in 14 even have a Twitter account and when they see it spill over into CNN of Fox News they are not impressed much beyond getting a laugh at the absurdity of it all, maybe ‘better than watching the faucet drip’ or reruns of ‘Gomer Pile’. Iowa and N.H. are just media shows, ‘early trading’ in ad revenues- the most any candidate can expect now is less than in one-third of the vote and even if one got a majority it wouldn’t say much about what’s to come, as Howard Dean found out.

Laura Stone

Bernie does attract radicals- I have seen with my own eyes. In reading the comments I am reminded of our school in NH that was literally turned upsidedown by 3 women from Vermont that had Bernie bumper stickers and had moved into our community. They moved into what was a Conservative area and a school run that way and they bullied and behaved horribly beyond words.
One actually physically attacked a parent in a fit of anger.. This is something that had *never* happened before. People dropped off the PTA obviously and the entire energy of the place changed- we lost students as a result and the ability to Fundraise was certainly less w less people involved. People sought to distance themself from these three women they felt uneasy around.
So Yes, I can see all the stuff that James O’Keefe is dumping on Bernie and his campaign workers at Project Veritas as being very accurate. I’ve seen it to be true.

Jenny Kingsbury

As the saying goes, if you want a friend in DC, get a dog.

LK Brown

Warren has established herself as less than truthful…..setting aside Bernie’s politics, I’d tend to believe him before believing her…..should just be a non story……


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