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What to Make of the Dispute Between Warren and Sanders at the Democratic Debate?

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15.01.2020

One of the stranger moments in Tuesday night’s Democratic Presidential debate, in Des Moines, came during an exchange between one of the moderators, Abby Phillip, of CNN, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts. The backdrop was a dispute between Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, about what Sanders had said to Warren at a private dinner that the two of them had in December, 2018, when both were on the verge of entering the Presidential race. On Monday, CNN ran a story, attributed to people who were “familiar” with the meeting or had spoken to Warren soon after it, claiming that Sanders had told her that a woman could not win the Presidential election.

That would, of course, be the kind of undermining, sexist thing that women with ambitions hear all the time. But Sanders strongly denied that he had said it. In fact, he said in a statement, it was “ludicrous” to think that he would tell Warren such a thing; instead, the statement read, “What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could.” (That is almost a truism.) Sanders added that it must be that “staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened.” This inference was, at least, undiplomatic and, perhaps, reckless. (There is a concurrent dispute about whether people on Sanders’s staff had coached volunteers to suggest to voters that Warren’s appeal was narrow and concentrated among “highly educated, more affluent people.”) Warren then came out with her own statement, which included this description of what each of them had said in the December meeting: “I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.” Neither of them left much room for the possibility that the truth was somewhere in between, or that, for example, Sanders might have sent a message that went beyond his words.

Neither did CNN. Phillip simply asked Sanders, “Why did you say that?” “Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it,” Sanders replied. “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. Anybody knows me knows that it’s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman cannot be President of the United States.” He cited a raft of evidence,........

© The New Yorker