democratic debates

Warren to Sanders: ‘I Think You Just Called Me a Liar on National TV’

When the nonaggression pact fails. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders’s post-debate exchange on Tuesday night certainly looked tense, judging from Warren’s decision not to shake Bernie’s hand as the other candidates good-gamed around them. According to audio released by CNN on Wednesday night, the conversation was as strained as it looked. Responding to Sanders’s onstage denial of a report that he told Warren in private that a woman could not defeat Trump in 2020, Warren called him out:

Warren: I think you called me a liar on national TV.

Sanders: What?

Warren: I think you called me a liar on national TV.

Sanders: You know, let’s not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion.

Warren: Alright.

Sanders: You called me a liar. You told me — all right, let’s not do it now.

CNN, which hosted the debate, also published audio from Tom Steyer, who awkwardly attempted to say hello in the post-debate scrum: “I don’t want to get in the middle. I just want to say hi Bernie.” (The Vermont senator returned his remark with a fabulous and “Yeah, good, okay.”) The network states that they obtained the audio from “two backup recordings from the microphones Sanders and Warren were wearing.”

The emergence of Warren’s account of the 2018 meeting this week — coming on the heels of other moments of discord between the two camps — prompted speculation that her camp intentionally leaked it to discredit Sanders, which the Warren team denies. (Speculation continued after the release of the audio, as Warren was most likely aware that the exchange would be caught on a hot mic.) The issue was raised by a moderator at Tuesday’s debate, which prompted a somewhat awkward but mostly mild exchange between the two candidates. The worst of the acrimony seemed to have passed, until the post-debate moment reignited it.

Questioned about the matter on Wednesday, Bernie Sanders gave a wry response to a reporter.

Jane Sanders, the candidate’s wife, was more forthcoming. She told the AP, of the clash, that “this discussion is over,” while maintaining that her husband did not make the comments Warren said he did. “We remain committed to continuing a progressive movement made up of women and men, black and white, gay and straight,” she said. “The message is unity.”

Warren to Sanders: ‘I Think You Just Called Me a Liar on TV’