Bernie Sanders’ First Wife Deborah Speaks Positively of Him

Bernie Sanders age

Getty Senator Bernie Sanders pictured in 2015.

Most Americans know Jane Sanders, Bernie Sanders’ current wife, because she has frequently accompanied him on the campaign trail. However, not a lot of people know that Sanders was married before to a woman named Deborah Shiling, now Deborah Messing.

However, Sanders’ ex wife – to whom he was married for only a short time in the 1960s, has only had positive words to say about Bernie Sanders, although she’s kept a publicly low profile. Neither of Sanders’ two wives is the mother of his only biological child, a son named Levi.

Here’s what you need to know about Bernie Sanders’ ex wife:

Sanders Says He Remains Good Friends With His Ex-Wife

Bernie Sanders


Bernie Sanders spoke about his ex-wife in 2015 to Politico Magazine. In that article he said they’d been “divorced for over 25 years,” and referred to her as Deborah Messing.

Sanders said that Messing was not a “Disgruntled ex-wife who would spill the beans on her former husband,” saying that Deborah “has been remarried for over 20 years. While we don’t see each other very often, we remain good friends.”

Sanders and Deborah met in the 1960s. “He met a woman who would become his wife. In 1964 he graduated with a degree in political science and got married in Baltimore,” Politico reported. Sanders was only 23, and the marriage lasted only two years, ending in 1966.

Some people have joked about the resemblance between Bernie and his ex:

The UK Daily Mail has done some of the most exhaustive reporting on Bernie’s ex wife. The site reports that Bernie’s son Levi is his son with a third woman named Susan Mott (not Jane or Deborah). You can see photos of Deborah in the Daily Mail article linked above.

According to Daily Mail, “For 20 years she worked as a buyer for the Hunger Mountain Coop, a ‘20,000 square foot community-owned natural foods cooperative’ in Vermont’s capital, Montpelier.” They once lived in a sugar shack without electricity, but Deborah had only kind words to say about Bernie Sanders.

“I really don’t want to say much,” she told Daily Mail. “All I can say is I believe in Bernie Sanders and I am a strong supporter.”

Deborah Was the Daughter of a Baltimore Doctor & Married Bernie at Her Parents’ Home

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Baltimore Magazine reported that “Shiling Messing’s father, Dr. Moses Shiling, served as chief of pulmonary diseases at Sinai Hospital and the young couple’s ceremony took place in the garden of her parents’ Baltimore home.”

The magazine added that “the young couple visited Israel, spending several months on a kibbutz.” They shared a lot in common as Deborah “was involved in social justice issues as a student civil rights activist at the University of Chicago. She apparently joined the Congress of Race Equality in 1960 and participated in a number of sit-ins in segregated restaurants in Baltimore,” reported Baltimore Magazine.

Bernie Sanders has been married to his current wife, Jane Sanders, since May 28, 1988. She saw him speak when he was running for mayor. “I was sitting in the second row, and our eyes met, but we didn’t really talk afterwards,” Jane told the Irish Times of meeting Bernie. “I felt it came from the heart, everything he said. He embodied everything I ever believed in.” They now have a blended family, as Jane brought three kids into the marriage.