Things seemed a little tense between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren after the Democratic debate on January 14, 2020. The two were civil during the debate, but when Sanders went to shake her hand, Warren wouldn’t shake it. Meanwhile, Tom Steyer appeared to be a little caught in the middle of what might have been a tense exchange as he watched.
Warren Appeared To Not Want to Shake Sanders’ Hand
Here’s a video of Warren not accepting Sanders’ offer to shake hands after the debate.
Sanders offered his hand to Warren’s right after the debate and she wouldn’t shake his hand. Instead, she had some words to say to him and Sanders had some words to say in response. It wasn’t clear what they were saying, but Tom Steyer appeared to be caught in the middle and was trying to keep things calm. Then immediately after they parted ways, Warren can be seen shaking Pete Buttigieg’s hand in the background.
Here’s that scene again.
And here are some photos of the exchange.
It’s not known if they were disagreeing over their opposite assertions about what happened at the dinner they had before Warren started running for President, or if maybe it was about Warren saying she was the only Democrat to beat a Republican incumbent in an election in 30 years and Sanders’ disagreeing.
On an interesting note, some have pointed out on social media that Hillary Clinton shook Donald Trump’s hand after a debate.
When asked about the exchange that he witnessed between Warren and Sanders after the debate, Steyer said it wasn’t a pleasant conversation, but he also didn’t know what they were saying. He said he just wanted to thank them both for participating and then he got out of their conversation as fast as possible. Here’s the video below showing Steyer’s comments about the whole thing.
During the debate, Sanders and Warren were asked about the dinner they had in 2018. Warren had said in a statement the day before that Sanders told her before she ran that he didn’t believe a woman could win the presidency. Meanwhile, Sanders has said that he never said a woman couldn’t win. They both stood by their statements during the debate. The entire conversation first came to light when CNN published a story based on accounts from four unnamed people who weren’t there for the conversation.
Here’s a clip of part of the exchange earlier.
Sanders said he did not tell Warren that a woman couldn’t win the election. “Anybody knows me, knows that it’s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman could not be President of the United States… In 2015 I deferred in fact to Senator Warren. There was a movement to draft Senator Warren to run for President… I stayed back, Senator Warren decided not to run, and I did … run afterwards. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes. How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could become President?”
The moderator confirmed with Sanders that he 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.
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.
Sanders disputed 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. It’s not clear from their exchange, at that point in the debate, if there was lasting tension between the two over this, or if Warren agreed Sanders fell in that 30-year-period (or if Sanders agreed he didn’t.) Viewers who have talked to Heavy see that exchange in different ways.
Warren concluded by saying that she believed a woman had a great chance at beating Trump and that Democrats could change America.
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.”
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 of those two sources told The Washington Post that Sanders didn’t actually say a woman could win, but that Trump might use underhanded tactics against a Democratic nominee. But, just as if with CNN, none of the sources have come forward with their identities.
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.
Tulsi Gabbard weighed in on the controversy, saying that Sanders was very supportive of her when they met before she announced her campaign.
Back before the 2016 election, a lot of people wanted Warren to run for President. At the time, 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.”