A CNN debate moderator is coming under criticism for asking Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenFive takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders, Warren exchange underscores Iowa stakes CNN’s Van Jones: Democratic debate was ‘dispiriting,’ no evidence party can defeat Trump MORE (D-Mass.) what she thought when Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders, Warren exchange underscores Iowa stakes CNN’s Van Jones: Democratic debate was ‘dispiriting,’ no evidence party can defeat Trump MORE (I-Vt.) reportedly told her that a woman could not win the presidential election, seconds after Sanders flatly denied he ever told Warren such a thing.
The different accounts from Sanders and Warren of the conversation at their December 2018 meeting was a highlight of Tuesday night’s debate.
CNN moderator Abby Phillip raised the issue about an hour into the two-hour debate, asking Sanders about CNN’s report of the conversation.
“Sen. Sanders, CNN reported yesterday, and Sen. Warren confirmed in a statement, that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?” Phillips asked Sanders.
“Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it,” Sanders responded.
“I don’t want to waste a whole lot of time on this, because this is what Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders, Warren exchange underscores Iowa stakes CNN’s Van Jones: Democratic debate was ‘dispiriting,’ no evidence party can defeat Trump MORE 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,” Sanders replied. “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 Sen. Sanders, I do want to be clear here,” Phillip followed up, “you’re saying that you never told Sen. Warren that a woman could not win the election?”
“That is correct,” Sanders said.
Phillip then turned to Warren, who on Monday night released a statement that corroborated with CNN’s account of the meeting. In the statement, Warren said she had disagreed with Sanders on the subject of whether a woman could win the presidency.
“Sen. Warren, what did you think when Sen. Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?” Phillip asked Warren.
Warren responded with some initial comments that echoed her Monday statement.
“I disagreed. Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie. But, look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised, and it’s time for us to attack it head-on,” Warren replied.
Critics of the exchange, including some members of the media, argued that it was unfair for Phillip to frame the question to Warren that presented as fact that Sanders had said a woman couldn’t win the White House.
The criticism came from media commentators such as NPR’s David Folfenflik and National Review’s Rich Lowry.
Warren had a great moment on Q can women win?
But how could CNN accept as fact that Sanders told Warren otherwise when he denied it three seconds earlier?
— David Folkenflik (@davidfolkenflik) January 15, 2020
I’m obviously not a Bernie fan, but the way CNN handled the questions around his alleged “a women can’t win” commentwascompletely outrageous and wrong
Bernie Sanders’s most vociferous opponent in the Iowa debate was CNN https://t.co/If3V8l76QZ
— Rich Lowry (@RichLowry) January 15, 2020
Supporters of Sanders were also unhappy with the framing.
You should be annoyed with @CNN who set this up. Warren is lying to try to get women voters from the debated candidates. But CNN presented it like it was fact. Disgraceful. #DemDebate https://t.co/gArxrCp4D9
— RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) January 15, 2020
Sanders and Warren are in a tight four-way race ahead of the Iowa caucuses early next month with former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders, Warren exchange underscores Iowa stakes Democrats clash at debate over keeping US troops in Mideast MORE and Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegFive takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders, Warren exchange underscores Iowa stakes Warren, Buttigieg spar over health care costs MORE, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind.