The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Warren accused Sanders of calling her ‘a liar on national TV’ in their tense confrontation after Tuesday’s debate

On Jan. 13, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) denied news reports alleging that he told Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that a woman could not win the 2020 election. (Video: The Washington Post)
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Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the two leading liberal presidential candidates, accused each other of calling the other a “liar” in an extraordinary exchange caught on a CNN microphone moments after the end of Tuesday’s presidential debate.

Their confrontation, visible to viewers, began when Warren walked toward Sanders and refused to shake his outstretched hand.

“I think you called me a liar on national TV,” Warren told Sanders.

“What?” asked Sanders.

“I think you called me a liar on national TV,” Warren said.

“You know, let’s not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion,” Sanders said.

“Anytime,” Warren said.

“You called me a liar,” Sanders said, adding: “You told me — all right, let’s not do it now.”

The words used by the candidates were not audible to viewers, but CNN said audio of the exchange had been found Wednesday.

The two have been feuding for days over what was said during a private December 2018 dinner at Warren’s Washington apartment.

CNN reported on Monday that Sanders had told Warren a woman could not win the presidency. Sanders denied the account, saying in a statement that he had outlined President Trump’s likely tactics.

“What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could,” Sanders said in the statement.

He noted that Hillary Clinton had won 3 million votes more than Trump in 2016, after she defeated Sanders for the Democratic nomination.

During Tuesday’s debate, both candidates confirmed their conflicting versions.

“Does anybody in their right mind believe that a woman can’t be president?” Sanders said. “I don’t think anybody believes that.”

Warren said he had told her a woman could not defeat Trump, adding that “I disagreed.”

She then pivoted to what she called a “head-on” attack on questions about a female candidate’s electability.

She pointed out that the two women onstage, herself and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) were the only two candidates to have won all their elections, while the men onstage had collectively lost 10 races.

The personal and very public dispute between Warren and Sanders prompted an outpouring of regrets among Democrats, particularly those on the left worried that the squabble would give an advantage to moderate candidates.

Just before CNN published the audio, Sanders addressed his supporters via an online video and said that in the past two days, his campaign has raised $4 million from about 200,000 contributors, including 25,000 people who had not previously contributed to his campaign.

“If that’s not momentum, I don’t know what momentum is,” Sanders said.