When both were considering presidential runs in December 2018, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a woman could not win the office, Warren said Monday, following an anonymously sourced report by CNN.
Warren said in a statement that during the two-hour meeting to discuss the 2020 election, "among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed."
"I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry," Warren continued. "I'm in this race to talk about what's broken in this country and how to fix it — and that’s what I’m going to continue to do. I know Bernie is in the race for the same reason. We have been friends and allies in this fight for a long time, and I have no doubt we will continue to work together to defeat Donald Trump and put our government on the side of the people."
At the meeting in Warren's Washington, D.C., apartment, the two progressive senators, both longtime friends, reportedly vowed not to trash each other in the upcoming Democratic primaries should both decide to toss their hats into the ring.
Sanders' comment reportedly came in response to Warren arguing she could make a powerful argument on the economy and garner female supporters. Warren then told Sanders she disagreed with him and that a woman could win, according to one of CNN's sources.
Two of CNN's sources are people Warren reportedly spoke to soon after the meeting, and two are people "familiar with the meeting," the network said.
Sanders vehemently denied the report, saying, "It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn't win."
Sander's added: "It's sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren't in the room are lying about what happened. What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist, and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016."
Sanders’ camp offered no immediate comment to Warren’s statement, but earlier in the day, the senator’s campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, called the notion that Sanders might have said a woman couldn’t be elected president "a lie."
The increasingly testy clash comes on the eve of a Democratic presidential debate in Iowa, the last before that state kicks off the Democratic primary with its leadoff caucuses on Feb. 3. Warren and Sanders, both of whom support universal health care, tuition-free public college and raising the minimum wage, have for months competed for their party’s most liberal wing while refraining from attacking each other.
But following a Politico story over the weekend that reported the Sanders campaign had instructed some volunteers to characterize Warren as a candidate for wealthy and well-educated voters in conversations with undecided voters, Warren issued a rare critique of her opponent. She said she was "disappointed" Sanders was instructing staffers to "trash" her.
That set the stage for Monday’s hours of additional squabbling — and may well spell a lively debate on Tuesday.
Stephanie Taylor and Adam Green, co-founders of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has at times praised both Warren and Sanders, released its own statement Monday night saying they "believe that a back-and-forth about this private meeting is counter-productive for progressives."
"In this pivotal moment of the campaign, progressives must work together to defeat Donald Trump," Taylor and Green said.
Warren currently is in the lead pack in Iowa and nationally. In the latest CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll, she, Sanders, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden have the most support. Warren and Sanders are tied for top choice among female caucus-goers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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