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CNN Debate Moderator Abby Phillip Doesn’t Accept Bernie’s Denial That He Said Women Can’t Win in 2020

CNN moderator Abby Phillip addressed the elephant in the room at the January Democratic debate on Tuesday night — the disputed claim that Sen. Bernie Sanders told Sen. Elizabeth Warren last year a woman can’t beat President Donald Trump in 2020 — but her follow-up question completely ignored Sanders’ vehement denial just moments earlier.

During an exchange that led off with her first asking Sanders about the CNN story, Phillip’s framing ignored the Vermont senator’s earlier, firm denials that he tried to warn off Warren.

“Let’s now turn to an issue that’s come up in the last 48 hours,” Phillip said. “Senator Sanders, CNN reported yesterday, and Senator Sanders — Senator Warren confirmed in a statement — that in 2018, you told her you did not believe that woman could win the election. Why did you say that?”

Sanders immediately rejected that presumption.

“Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it,” he said. “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. Go to YouTube today. There’s a video of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become President of the United States. ”

“So Senator Sanders, I do want to be clear here,” Phillip followed up, “you’re saying that you never told Senator Warren that a woman could not win the election?”

“That is correct,” Sanders confirmed.

But despite that denial, Phillip immediately turned around and framed her follow-up question to Warren as if the claim was not disputed.

“Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?” Phillip asked.

Warren, whose campaign CNN effectively confirmed earlier on Tuesday was the source of the leaked story, gave an abrupt answer, but then quickly moved on.

Phillip’s repeated loaded questions drew criticism from media watchers online. Although some thought perhaps Phillip was trying to aggressively push Sanders and Warren to own their roles in the controversy, it nonetheless came across like she was wholly dismissing Sanders’ account and accepting Warren’s. You can check out the full reaction here.

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