All eyes were on Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for the January Democratic debate. After a controversy developed between the two Progressive friends, viewers were wanting to see what they had to say in the debates. Here’s a look at what they said about whether Sanders said a woman couldn’t be President and a background on what happened.
Sanders & Warren Addressed the Controversy About What Was (or Wasn’t) Said At Their Dinner
As expected, Warren and Sanders were both asked about the controversy and their dinner conversation. Here’s what they said.
Sanders said he did not tell Warren that a woman couldn’t win the election. “Anybody that knows me, knows it’s incomprehensible… IN 2015 I deferred in fact to Senator Warren… I stayed back, Sen. Warren decided not to run, and I did run afterwards. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes. How could anyone … believe a woman couldn’t become President?”
The moderator confirmed that Sanders never told Warren a woman couldn’t win the election. “That is correct,” Sanders said. The moderator then asked Warren how she felt when Sanders said a woman couldn’t win.
Then Warren said she disagreed when Sanders told her that. “Bernie is my friend and I’m not here to fight with Bernie… This question (of if a woman can win) has been raised and it’s time to attack it head on… Can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look at the men on this stage… collectively they have lost 10 elections.” She then said that only she and Klobuchar were the people on the stage who had won every election they were in. She added that she was the only one on the stage who had beaten an incumbent Republican in the last 30 years.
Warren added that they needed a candidate to excite everyone in the party and that’s why she was going to win.
Sanders corrected her about defeating an incumbent. He said that in 1990 he defeated an incumbent Republican Congressman. When Warren said that she had said she was referring to the last 30 years, Sanders said that the election had happened within the last 30 years. Warren concluded by saying that she believed a woman had the best chance for beating Trump and the Democrats could change America.
Now here’s a background on how this all came up and what happened.
Sanders & Warren Have Different Recollections of Their Talk Before Warren Declared She Was Running
CNN reported that anonymous sources said Sanders told Warren in 2018 that a woman couldn’t win the presidency. The alleged statement was made during a private dinner between the two at Warren’s home. The sources are two people who said Warren talked to them after the dinner, and two people “familiar with the meeting.”
Kristen Orthman, Warren’s communications director, would not comment for the article at the time it was published, CNN said.
In a statement to CNN, Sanders said he did not say those words.
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. It’s sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened. What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”
But Warren had a different response:
Bernie and I met for more than two hours in December 2018 to discuss the 2020 election, our past work together and our shared goals: beating Donald Trump, taking back our government from the wealthy and well-connected, and building an economy that works for everyone. Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed. I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry. I’m in this race to talk about what’s broken in this country and how to fix it — and that’s what I’m going to continue to do. I know Bernie is in the race for the same reason. We have been friends and allies in this fight for a long time, and I have no doubt we will continue to work together to defeat Donald Trump and put our government on the side of the people.
Skeptical readers pointed out that all four sources kept their identities anonymous and weren’t there for the dinner, which was private between Sanders and Warren. And The Washington Post reported that “two people with knowledge of the conversation” said Warren brought up the question of whether Sanders thought a woman could win. One person said Sanders didn’t actually say a woman could win, but that Trump might use underhanded tactics against a Democratic nominee.
Back in March 2019, Warren was asked during SXSW if Sanders discouraged her from running for President. Michael Calderone of Politico said that Warren told him: “So Bernie and I had a private dinner and my view is that dinner stays private.”
In 1988, Sanders Said He Believed a Woman Could Be Elected President
Back in 1988, when Sanders supported Jesse Jackson for President, he said that he believed a woman could win the presidency. Here’s a video.
You can view the full video below. It was recorded on January 20, 1988 and his comments about a woman being elected were made around 10:55.
Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager, has said that Sanders never told Warren that a woman couldn’t win. He also said that Sanders had urged Warren to run for President in 2016 before Sanders ultimately did.
Back before the 2016 election, a lot of people wanted Elizabeth Warren to run for President. At the time, Bernie Sanders hadn’t decided yet if he would run or not. In 2013, he had an interview with Burlington Free Press about the 2016 campaign. That story has since been taken down and a search for it on the Internet Archive notes that the story has been “excluded” from the archive. (It appears all Burlington Free Press stories are excluded.) But you can still find other publications quoting from the story.
HuffPost and The Hill both published stories about the interview in 2013, quoting Sanders as saying that he would prefer not to run for President, but would if no one else would who was ready to challenge the establishment. He said that Warren could get his support if she ran. He was quoted as saying: “I like Elizabeth Warren very much. Her beauty is that she is very smart. She speaks English. She can explain economics in a way that everybody can understand.”
Tulsi Gabbard weighed in on the controversy, saying that Sanders was very supportive of her when they met before she announced her campaign.
The Comments About the Dinner Surfaced Shortly After a Controversial Script Was Shared, Which Sanders Volunteers Say Is Not from the Campaign
The anonymous comments about Sanders’ and Warren’s dinner surfaced right after another unknown person posted an alleged talking-points script in a Bernie Sanders Slack chat for volunteers. Politico was the first to report on the script. Although described in the headline as a script that “slams” Warren, it actually simply said that she was a good choice and “people who support her are highly-educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what. She’s bringing no new bases into the Democratic Party…” The script was alleged to be part of a training script for volunteers, but Sanders volunteers are refuting its authenticity.
Here’s the script, shared by Politico reporter Alex Thompson. Thompson said he retyped the script to protect the source.
Shortly after the script was released, Warren’s campaign sent out a fundraising email saying that this was not true of her supporters.
Meanwhile, Buzzfeed reported that Sanders said, “I think this is a little bit of a media blow up. The kind of wants conflict. Elizabeth Warren is a very good friend of mine. We have worked together in the Senate for years. Elizabeth Warren and I continue to work together. We will debate the issues. Nobody is gonna trash Elizabeth… We have hundreds of employees. Elizabeth Warren has hundreds of employees. And people sometimes say things that they shouldn’t. You have heard me give many speeches. Have I ever said one word about Elizabeth Warren?”
When asked if he approved of the script, Sanders said, “Nooo. Of course I did not…”
Heavy has not obtained an original copy of the script to confirm it. ABC News also has not obtained a copy. Volunteers told Heavy that it was just on the Slack for a minute, was not posted by anyone connected to the campaign, and was quickly taken down by moderators.
Eric Isaac, a Kings County Democratic Committee Member, also posted on Twitter that the script came from a random user who had only posted once. A moderator said it wasn’t from the campaign.