Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, was pressed during a Senate committee hearing Wednesday over her past conduct on social media and comments about political opponents.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), ranking member of the budget committee, said that Tanden wasn’t “the unity pick” he expected from the Biden administration, and called her a “very partisan figure.” Graham pointed to a comment she made about Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who she called “Moscow Mitch,” and another comment she made in which she accused the Republican Party of having a “capacity for evil” that “knows no bounds.”
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chairman of the budget committee, also mentioned Tanden’s behavior on social media in his line of questioning, although he didn’t single out specific tweets. (Back in December, only days after Tanden was announced as Biden’s pick for the budget office, CNN reported that Tanden had deleted more than 1,000 tweets from her personal Twitter account.)
“Your attacks were not just made against Republicans, they were vicious attacks made against progressives, people who I have worked with, me personally,” said Sanders. “So as you come before this committee, to assume a very important role in the United States government, in a time when we need serious work on serious issues, and not personal attacks on anybody, whether they’re on the Left or the Right. Can you reflect a little bit about some of your decisions and the personal statements you’ve made in recent years?”
Tanden responded: “I recognize that my language and my expressions on social media caused hurt to people, and I feel badly about that, and I really regret it, and I recognize it’s really important for me to demonstrate that I can work with others, and I look forward to taking that burden, and I apologize to people on either the Left or Right who are hurt by what I’ve said.”
Sanders told Tanden that it wasn’t so much about offending people with insults, but stressed the importance of “expressing differences on policy,” and not resorting to personal attacks. In response, Tanden said she would “absolutely” take a different approach.
“Social media does lead to too many personal comments, and my approach will be radically different,” she said.
Later in the hearing, Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) said he was “very disturbed” about the personal nature of her online comments, and accused Tanden of calling Sanders “everything but an ignorant slut.” She denied doing so, but she again told the committee that she felt badly about her online comments.
Kennedy then asked her nearly a dozen times whether she was sincere when she made the comments, and after deflecting that same question repeatedly — including twice trying to blame the political discourse on social media instead of answering the question — Tanden finally answered him: “Senator, I must have meant them, but I really regret them.”
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