And perhaps most notably, she repeatedly alludes to allegations of sexism against Sanders’s campaign — linking it to the candidate himself.
The interview with the Hollywood Reporter tears open the still-mending wounds from the protracted 2016 primary that pitted Clinton against the independent senator from Vermont. Even as Sanders appears an increasingly solid bet to win the 2020 nomination, Clinton seems to strongly warn against her party making that decision.
The interview coincides with a new documentary called “Hillary,” which is debuting at the Sundance Film Festival. In the documentary, Clinton has some of her strongest words to date for Sanders.
“He was in Congress for years; he had one senator support him,” Clinton said. “Nobody likes him; nobody wants to work with him; he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It’s all just baloney, and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.”
Asked by the Hollywood Reporter whether that assessment holds, Clinton was direct.
“Yes, it does,” she said.
In perhaps her most telling response, Clinton was then asked whether she would endorse or campaign with Sanders if he wins the nomination. She demurred and then took the opportunity to go after him and his supporters again, suggesting they have disproportionately targeted women.
Here’s the quote in full:
I’m not going to go there yet. We’re still in a very vigorous primary season. I will say, however, that it’s not only him, it’s the culture around him. It’s his leadership team. It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it. And I don’t think we want to go down that road again where you campaign by insult and attack and maybe you try to get some distance from it, but you either don’t know what your campaign and supporters are doing or you’re just giving them a wink and you want them to go after Kamala [Harris] or after Elizabeth [Warren]. I think that that’s a pattern that people should take into account when they make their decisions.
It’s one thing to say Sanders’s supporters have gone too far. This is Clinton, though, suggesting they are acting upon a wink and a nod from the candidate himself. She’s saying he “seems to be really very much supporting it” and suggests it’s gendered.
That plays into the back and forth between Sanders and Warren last week, in which the senator from Massachusetts accused him of telling her privately that a woman could not be elected president. Clinton is furthering the idea that there is something innately sexist about Sanders’s support and that he has promoted it.
Clinton was also asked to address that controversy, and she very much took Warren’s side.
“Well, number one, I think [that sentiment] is untrue, which we should all say loudly,” she said, noting her popular-vote win over Trump. She added: “I think that both the press and the public have to really hold everybody running accountable for what they say and what their campaign says and does. That’s particularly true with what’s going on right now with the Bernie campaign having gone after Elizabeth with a very personal attack on her.
“Then this argument about whether or when he did or didn’t say that a woman couldn’t be elected — it’s part of a pattern. If it were a one-off, you might say, ‘Okay, fine.’ But he said I was unqualified. I had a lot more experience than he did and got a lot more done than he had, but that was his attack on me.”
Again, the subtext here is pretty clear: That was sexist.
She then seemed to lump Sanders in with Trump, to some extent.
“I just think people need to pay attention because we want, hopefully, to elect a president who’s going to try to bring us together, and not either turn a blind eye or actually reward the kind of insulting, attacking, demeaning, degrading behavior that we’ve seen from this current administration,” Clinton said.
Shortly before Clinton’s comments were published, Sanders urged his supporters who had gone after Warren and former vice president Joe Biden to engage in “civil discourse.”
“If anyone knows me, what I believe is we need a serious debate in this country on issues,” he told CBS News. “We don’t need to demonize people who may disagree with us.”
But Sanders also suggested that to focus on his campaign is to single it out.
“We’re not the only campaign that does it; other people act that way as well,” Sanders said. “I would appeal to everybody: Have a debate on the issues. We can disagree with each other without being disagreeable, without being hateful. That is not what American politics should be about.”
Democrats like to pretend that Clinton’s continuing commentary about her 2016 primary with Sanders isn’t relevant at the moment. But she doesn’t seem prepared to let bygones be bygones. And this interview comes at a particularly conspicuous time, given the fast-approaching primaries and Warren’s allegation against Sanders.