Slide background
Slide background
Slide background
Slide background
Slide background
Slide background
Slide background
Slide background

Just prior to the CNN / Des Moines Register 2020 January debate, the media started to focus attention on a breakdown in the entente cordial between Warren and Sanders that had existed all through the primaries. In the weeks and days before the debate Bernie had ultimately emerged as the front runner in Iowa whilst Warren’s poll numbers had slumped (following the revealing of her transition plan to Medicare For all which voters interpreted as her not being sincere about wanting to fight for that health care policy).

First, it was reported that Warren’s campaign was upset about Sanders’s campaign allegedly urging his supporters to portray Warren as primarily appealing to elitist educated voters.

Bernie apologized but claimed that his campaign was not doing what Warren’s campaign had claimed.

Two days before the debate (Sunday), CNN reported that four anonymous sources had claimed that Bernie had told Warren (when they met in a one to one private meeting in 2018) that he disagreed with her that a woman could win the WhiteHouse. The CNN implication was that Bernie was a ‘secret sexist’ (as Jill Stein remarked in her tweeted response about how the desperate Warren campaign was smearing Bernie).

Bernie replied that this allegation of sexism was ludicrous and that the anonymous sources who were not even in the room were lying. Bernie has been documented for decades as empowering women and defending their rights.

The day before the debate, Warren put out a statement which claimed that she and Bernie had met in December 2018 to discuss how they were both planning to run in 2020 etc. and that Warren had said she thought that a woman could win (in 2020) but Bernie disagreed. She would not be offering any more details about the context of their private discussion.

During the January 14 debate, Bernie was asked about the private conversation (not Warren’s clarification). He prefaced his remarks by reminding viewers of how this story would help the parts of the media and Trump. He went on to deny that he had told Warren that a woman could not win the Presidency, citing YouTube and videos showing him to repeatedly claim the opposite.

Following Sanders’ reply to the question of whether he had told Warren that a woman could not win the Presidency, the CNN moderator (Abby Philip) responded by negating Sanders’ reply and asking Warren how she felt about Sanders’ having claimed that a woman could not be President, as if this was a proven (or even likely) fact.

Even some conservative tv shows the day after the debate (e.g. Morning Joe) expressed outrage at this treatment of Bernie. The fact that there was no skepticism expressed by the moderators of the debate about the issue of whether Bernie said what the anonymous sources claimed he had said, given Bernie’s well known progressive record, was a red flag (but nothing to do with Russia).

It later emerged on OutFront with Erin Burnett the day after the debate that Warren’s campaign had initially leaked the ‘four anonymous sources’ story to CNN.

In the age of #metoo, there is an acknowledgement that women should be believed when they claim they were abused in some way. However, that doesn’t mean that a female politician should have the benefit of the doubt when that doubt is deliberately created by the woman in question (or her political campaign) in refusing to provide any context to the private discussion in question.

Furthermore, the moderator on CNN (and subsequent post-debate corporate panelists) broaching the prurient ratings-grabbing issue of a spat between Warren and Sanders utterly failed to draw attention to the difference between the ‘four anonymous sources’ original story focused on in the debate and Warren’s pre-debate clarification (in which the context was not female Presidents in general but a female President in 2020).

If that distinction had been drawn (as it would have been in a proper journalistic context) one would have seen Warren have to reply to the difference between the (ludicrous, yet debate-publicized anonymous source) allegation that Bernie said that a woman couldn’t be President and Warren’s distinct ‘clarification’ that Bernie had allegedly claimed to her privately that a woman couldn’t win in 2020.

Warren never once claimed that Bernie was saying something untrue during the formal part of the televised debate (the idea that Bernie was not telling the truth was to be inferred by the viewer during the debate and the post-debate coverage). However much was made in the post-debate CNN discussion of the (at the time) inaudible interchange between the two.

Bernie clearly offered to shake Warren’s hand, which she refused (CNN later portrayed this exchange as an angry Warren having justifiable reason to not shake Bernie’s out-stretched hand).

The day following the debate, CNN had segments on shows throughout the day (e.g. Anderson Cooper 360 and Don Lemon) about what Warren and Bernie actually said to each other in their ‘heated exchange’. The audio of their exchange had been picked up by auxiliary microphones (which could hear what Tom Steyer, standing right beside the two was apparently unable to hear).

The transcript of the interchange between Warren and Sanders revealed on the day after the debate is as follows (Bernie extends his hand to Warren who refuses to shake it):

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: “Let’s not do it right now. You want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion.”

Warren: “Anytime”.

Sanders: “You called me a liar, you told me . . . alright let’s not do it right now.”

Steyer: “I don’t want to get into the middle of it, I just want to say hi Bernie.”

Sanders: “Yeah good, OK”.

CNN analysis proceeded to portray this interchange on Chris Cuomo, AC 360 and Don Lemon as precipitated by Warren being angry at Bernie, as if she was justified in being angry at him. At least, they continually portrayed the interchange as a ‘he said, she said’ situation, as if that’s all the relevant information that can be given to the public. If CNN had any journalistic integrity, they would have looked at the track records of Sanders and Warren as far as telling the truth and treatment of women are concerned.

Bernie was attacked by CNN with right-wing talking points on several issues during the debate (as Rolling Stone pointed out) and Warren was not even asked about her divergence from the original ‘four anonymous sources’ story in her ‘clarification’ of it. Indeed, the whole section of the debate concerning the interchange between Sanders and Warren depended on CNN keeping quiet about Warren’s clarification (which she herself never once alluded to).

Warren’s own ‘clarification’ shows that her post-debate exchange with Bernie, portrayed by CNN propagandists as embodying genuine indignation was really just a staged fake attempt to act as if she had some reason to be upset with the senator from Vermont. She was acting as if Bernie had originally made the ‘four anonymous sources’ claim (that a woman could not be President i.e. under any circumstances) and that he then denied having made that claim on the debate stage, thus contradicting the CNN moderator’s suggestion that Bernie had indeed made that claim.

Warren knew that her own clarification about what was said (i.e. Bernie allegedly disagreeing that a woman could win in 2020) is a different claim than the ‘four anonymous sources’ one. Furthermore, CNN must have known about Warren’s clarification and that it does not imply the ‘four anonymous sources’ claim (which is a much stronger claim). Despite this knowledge, when a CNN moderator deliberately ignored Warren’s clarification and asked her how she felt when Bernie had said that a woman could not be President, she was asking for a response to the ‘four anonymous sources’ claim.

Importantly, Warren did not answer the above question about how she felt (knowing that if she had done so she would have been obviously complicit to those paying attention in leading viewers to believe that Bernie had made the ‘four anonymous sources’ claim, not the claim described in her own clarification about what was allegedly said). In not directly answering the question, Warren could let the viewer believe that CNN were just being biased against Bernie (as usual) if they were astonished that CNN would just accept and propagate the idea that Bernie had indeed made the claim described in the ‘four anonymous sources’ story.

Warren began her response by claiming that Bernie was a friend and that she did not want to fight with him, going on to talk about how only the women on the stage had won all of their election battles. Most viewers probably did not notice that Warren had not answered the question about how she had felt, the moderator did not press for an answer and post-debate commentators did not mention this lack of reply on Warren’s behalf.

Although many have come away from the debate with the attitude that CNN are lacking in any journalistic integrity, the reality is even more concerning. The only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from

1. CNN ignoring Warren’s clarification about what Bernie was alleged to have said,

2. The fact that Warren herself never once brought attention to it or mentioned it at all,

3. Posing the question to Warren about how she felt as if it had been established that Bernie had made the alleged claim at issue, and

4. Warren’s failure to provide a direct answer to that question is as follows: