CNN kicked off some shit yesterday between Sens. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.), just ahead of the Democratic presidential debate on CNN tonight. By the end of the day, the alleged disagreement between the two 2020 candidates over whether a woman could win against Donald Trump had spawned conflicting comments from the two campaigns and a huge outpouring of animosity from their respective fans.

The CNN story, from political correspondent MJ Lee, described a meeting between Sanders and Warren in December 2018. “The two agreed that if they ultimately faced each other as presidential candidates, they should remain civil and avoid attacking one another, so as not to hurt the progressive movement,” writes Lee. More:

They also discussed how to best take on President Donald Trump, and Warren laid out two main reasons she believed she would be a strong candidate: She could make a robust argument about the economy and earn broad support from female voters. Sanders responded that he did not believe a woman could win.

Cue the outrage about Sanders’ supposed misogyny, despite the fact that there was no indication that Sanders relished this idea. And for Sanders’ part, he denies that any such conversation ever happened.

“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,” said Sanders in a statement to CNN. He chalked up the story to “staff who weren’t in the room…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,” Sanders added. “Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course!”

A few hours later, the Warren campaign effectively called Sanders a liar. In a statement about the meeting with Sanders, Warren said: “I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.”

The most charitable reading here says that Warren and Sanders came out of the same conversation with different reads on what had been discussed. It’s not hard to imagine one person in an already somewhat awkward situation (hey, so, we’re both running for president…) discussing hypothetical hardships a woman candidate would face against Trump, and the other person construing that as saying a woman couldn’t win.

It’s also possible that Sanders is lying to save face, of course, and the same goes for Warren. A popular theory has been that Warren embellished her opponents’ words when telling staffers about the meeting (without meaning for it to go further) and was backed into publicly confirming a tall tale when the story got leaked to media.

Other suggest a more active sabotage attempt by Warren. For instance, here’s Jacobin staff writer Meagan Day:

Still others suggest the whole melodrama was cooked up (or is being egged on) by Republicans to divide Democrats and get their top candidates to attack one another.

The Washington Post reported that “two people with knowledge of the conversation at the 2018 dinner [said] that Warren brought up the issue by asking Sanders whether he believed a woman could win. One of the people with knowledge of the conversation said Sanders did not say a woman couldn’t win but rather that Trump would use nefarious tactics against the Democratic nominee.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii) also weighed in with support of Sanders:


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