democratic debates

Watch Elizabeth Warren Refuse to Shake Bernie Sanders’s Hand After the Debate

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Call the lip-reading experts: As the candidates mingled following the January Democratic debate, Senator Bernie Sanders appeared to extend his hand to shake hands with Elizabeth Warren, who did not accept the invite. They then had a terse exchange that ended abruptly with the candidates walking in separate directions.

According to audio released by CNN the night after the debate, Warren directly accused Sanders of calling her a liar:

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.”

Though the back-and-forth over the report that Sanders told her in a private conversation in 2018 that a female candidate could not win in 2020 remained cordial, the night in Des Moines may be remembered more for the post-debate confrontation than any words exchanged onstage.

During the tense moment, billionaire candidate Tom Steyer proved that he can read neither the demands of the American electorate, nor body language, standing awkwardly as the progressive senators briefly spoke. Though he almost certainly heard the conversation, Steyer did not tell Chris Matthews what it was about: “Whatever they were talking about I was trying to get out of the way as fast as possible,” he said to the MSNBC host. Still, close observers of the debate may be more interested in what he has to say on the Warren–Sanders front, compared to any of his electoral arguments:

Though it may become another forgotten debate moment in a long string of uneventful contests, the unspoken message from the post-debate conversation contradicts the takeaway that Sanders and Warren have been forwarding throughout this week’s spat. During the debate, the Warren said that “Bernie is my friend” and that she is “not here to try and fight with Bernie.” But the handshake moment could undo that goodwill, escalating the unneeded conflict between the senators.

This post has been updated.

Watch Warren Snub Sanders’s Handshake Post-Democratic Debate