Will Tuesday night go down as the moment a biased CNN question and a rebuffed handshake officially buried Elizabeth Warren’s campaign? Trending hashtags on Twitter would have you believe so.
In the seventh — and dullest yet — Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night in Des Moines, Iowa, hosted by CNN, CNN’s Abby Phillips made sure to bring up a dubious claim made in a report Monday by the network — and promptly tip her hand on which of the candidates she believed to be telling the truth.
“So, Senator Sanders, I do want to be clear here, you’re saying that you never told Senator Warren that a woman could not win the election?” Phillips, a White House correspondent for the network, asked the Vermont senator.
“That is correct,” Sanders replied.
Phillips then turned to Warren and asked a question that quickly sparked accusations of “media malpractice” online.
“Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?” asked Phillips, clearly implying Sanders was lying.
“I disagreed,” Warren replied. “Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie. But, look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised, and it’s time for us to attack it head-on.” Warren then used the assist from CNN to play the woman card hard — and slam the men sharing the stage, as if she’d been prepared for the opportunity.
“The best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people’s winning record,” she said. “So, can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women. Amy [Klobuchar] and me.”
Video below from Grabien’s Tom Elliott:
CNN: “Sen. Sanders, I do want to be clear here, you’re saying that you never told senator Warren that a woman could not win the election?"
SANDERS: "That is correct."
CNN: “Sen. Warren, what did you think when senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?" pic.twitter.com/BZ1NajmQE9
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) January 15, 2020
After a rather uneventful debate, where the “sparks didn’t really fly,” as The New York Times lamented, Warren offered viewers one other memorable moment.
When Sanders reached out to shake hands with her, Warren refused. Instead of shaking his hand, as she did the other candidates, Warren appeared to say something critical to her fellow senator, to which Sanders responded in kind. Video of the ugly encounter below:
— Andrew Jerell Jones (@sluggahjells) January 15, 2020
Now, as CNN’s Chris Cillizza put it, “the Warren-Sanders feud just got way worse,” and the blowback seems to be going mostly one direction, with the hashtag #NeverWarren quickly trending on social media:
As of Wednesday morning, the hashtag “#neverWarren” was trending as Bernie allies took to Twitter to attack the Massachusetts senator as a lying snake. (Not kidding; snake emojis were everywhere in the anti-Warren tweets.) “Lie or mischaracterize your ‘friend’s’ comments, double down, refuse to shake his hand,” tweeted Kyle Kulinski, a prominent liberal and YouTube host. “Are you watching America?” tweeted liberal activist and Sanders supporter Shaun King: “When @BernieSanders beat a Republican to win his congressional seat 29 years ago, Elizabeth Warren was still a Republican. One reason she never lost to a Republican is that she was a Republican for the first 47 years of her life.”
Some Warren defenders have attempted to somehow turn the moment against Bernie, but to lesser effect. The take away, Cillizza stresses, is that this meltdown between the race’s two most radical progressives has “real consequences”:
Sanders and Warren are the two most prominent liberals in the race, and for either one of them to beat former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination this year, they will need the near-united support of the left. Up until a few days ago, that seemed like a very real possibility, with Warren and Sanders refusing to attack one another and their supporters — online and off — largely aiming their rhetorical fire at the likes of Biden and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.