Bernie Sanders Spox Says Warren ‘Misconstrued’ What Really Happened During Private Meeting with Sanders
Bernie Sanders senior aide Jeff Weaver defended his candidate by suggesting that Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and the Vermont senator simply got their “wires crossed” about what really happened during a private meeting in December of 2018.
The Democratic primary race was roiled Monday when a bombshell story emerged that Sanders had told Warren — during a private meeting in December of 2018 — that a woman can’t win the presidency against President Donald Trump.
Sanders responded by accusing the Warren campaign of leaking the story, and of “lying” about what happened at that meeting, so Warren was forced to set the record straight. In a statement, she confirmed that at that meeting, “Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.”
On Monday night, another account of the Sanders/Warren meeting appeared, this one from other sources “with knowledge of the conversation,” who told The Washington Post 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.”
That brings us to Monday night’s edition of Cuomo Prime Time, where Weaver subbed in for actor Danny DeVito — whose appearance was canceled at the last minute following the news — to discuss the controversy, and suggested that Warren maybe just “misconstrued” the interaction.
Weaver, who admitted to no knowledge of the conversation, told Cuomo “I think there were some wires crossed. I mean clearly there was a discussion. He went there.”
“What does that mean, ‘Wires crossed?'” Cuomo asked.
“They had lasagna and so,” Weaver digressed, then said “So, what you’re saying is that she said ‘Hey Bernie, glad to see you.’ ‘Hey Elizabeth, how are you?’ ‘Hey, I’m running for President, Bernie.’ “Oh! A woman can’t win.’ Is that how the conversation went? I don’t think so.
As Weaver launched into his version of what was said, Cuomo interrupted. “She says he said – she said ‘I want to run.’ He disagreed with the idea that a woman could win,” and asked “Why would she lie about it? What does that say about her?”
“No. What I’m saying is I think their wires were crossed,” Weaver said, and added “I think it was a discussion about Trump, misogyny, sexism in politics, and – and – and the difficulty of running in the era of Trump for women, the special challenges that women face, in the era of Trump.”
“But, you know, those conversations can sometimes get misconstrued, Chris,” he added.
Weaver’s “wires crossed” explanation has the sinister whiff of the gaslighting that accompanies many a “he said, she said,” the suggestion that the woman just took it the wrong way. It’s a risky defense, but it may also be an attempt to offer Senator Warren an off-ramp from the uncomfortable situation in which the candidates find themselves.
Which it is depends on some things that are difficult to know for sure. One factor is the mechanics of the way in which this story came together.
The original CNN article cited ” two people Warren spoke with directly soon after the encounter, and two people familiar with the meeting,” but Senator Sanders immediately and explicitly accused Senator Warren’s staff of leaking the story, and of “lying” about the meeting.
There’s every reason to believe that whoever gave this story to CNN did so in retaliation for a Sanders volunteer script that went after Warren, but no proof that this was directed by the campaign. And Warren’s response, in which she completely confirmed the reporting, also downplayed the conversation as “differences on punditry” and included a declaration that she would discuss the meeting no further.
Warren didn’t twist the knife, and even maintained that “Bernie and I have far more in common” than this one difference. On the other hand, it’s a big knife that doesn’t need a lot of twisting, and Senator Warren has to worry about something that resonates with a lot of women: shielding herself from blowback.
That blowback has been predicated on the notion that Warren leaked this story. One aide from a rival Democratic campaign tells Mediaite that “This is exactly what Warren does when slighted. She takes the low road and goes on hard and disproportionate offense on whoever she’s closest behind in the polls at the time.”
“Biden, Pete, and Sanders have all been hit by her or her surrogates in recent history — especially now that her #1 attack dog Castro is fully on board. Clear evidence that’s she’s not willing to actually take up the unity mantle she’s recently added to her stump,” the aide added, referring to former HUD Secretary and recent Warren endorser Julián Castro.
The blowback has included a lot of skepticism about Warren’s account, including the uncomfortable question of why she waited over a year to reveal this — again, based on the presumption that Warren directed the leak. But that question could also be explained by the blowback she has received, and the prospect that she would not be believed.
That blowback has been fierce, and included a trending #RefundWarren hashtag and demands from Sanders supporters like The Young Turks‘ Ana Kasparian that Warren reveal more of the “context” of her conversation with Sanders. Their premise seems to be that Sanders simply offered a realpolitik assessment about the difficulties women and minorities might face against Trump — which, at best, does not exactly add up to an encouragement of her candidacy.
So voters are presented with several competing possibilities. The first is that Warren was dragged into this by well-meaning supporters who revealed this conversation to reporters unbeknownst to her, and is just trying to tell the truth and move beyond it.
Another is that Warren leaked the story, is either lying or stretching the truth, and is playing the victim in a desperate attempt to climb over Sanders in the waning days before Iowa.
And the off-ramp that Weaver and whoever leaked that account to The Washington Post are offering is that Warren took it wrong, that upon further reflection, maybe she just “misconstrued” the totally innocent thing that Bernie said. Maybe she made a bigger deal about it in her own mind than it actually was.
That’s an array of ugly choices, especially for a party that places a premium on believing women. And somehow, Elizabeth Warren has been boxed into deciding how it will turn out.
Watch the clip above via CNN.
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