Updated Jan 14, 2020

Elizabeth Warren: Bernie Sanders said a woman couldn't win in 2020

2020 candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the July Democratic presidential debate in Detroit. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in a statement Monday that her Democratic presidential rival Sen. Bernie Sanders told her during a December 2018 meeting that a woman could not win in 2020.

Why it matters: Warren issued the statement after facing backlash for not commenting on reports from anonymous sources that Sanders had made the comments. He denied making the claim.

Among the topics that came up [at the meeting] was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed."
— Excerpt from Warren's statement

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Alexi McCammond: Warren is doing Sanders a favor by releasing this statement and keeping her end of the unity pact — even after a report earlier this week revealed Sanders’ campaign volunteers were given a script that included criticism of her.

  • Let's not forget the internal division Sanders and his supporters caused within the Democratic Party during the 2016 election. Any signs of that happening again in this race could frustrate party leaders and lead to even more division.

Of note: Polls show roughly a third of Sanders' supporters say Warren is their second choice, and vice-versa. They are largely competing for the same universe of voters, and the Iowa caucuses will give us a clearer picture of who’s building the larger coalition.

What he's saying: Sanders and his campaign previously denied he'd ever made such a statement:

"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. 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."

What she's saying: In her statement, Warren said that the issue emerged as she and Sanders met for over two hours "to discuss the 2020 election, our past work together and our shared goals."

  • She said she had no interest in discussing her private meeting with Sanders "any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than on our differences on punditry."
"We have been friends and allies in this fight for 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."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper:

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren told 2020 rival Sen. Bernie Sanders after the seventh Democratic debate, "I think you called me a liar on national TV," CNN audio broadcast Wednesday indicates.

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Sanders: I never told Warren a woman could never be president

Sen. Bernie Sanders denied he told Sen. Elizabeth Warren a woman would not be able to win the U.S. presidency, during the seventh Democratic debate Tuesday night.

"Well, as a matter of fact, I didn't say it. And I don't want to waste a whole lot of time on this, because this is what Donald Trump and maybe some media want. Anybody who knows me knows that it's incomprehensible that I would think that a woman cannot be president of the United States."
— Sen. Bernie Sanders
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Sanders says age, gender, sexuality could all be construed as 2020 obstacles

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Sen. Bernie Sanders said on New Hampshire Public Radio Sunday that gender could be viewed as an "obstacle" for female politicians running for president, but that everyone has their "own set of problems" — such as his own age, for example — and that it's important to look at the "totality" of a candidate.

Why it matters: Sanders is continuing to deal with the fallout from Sen. Elizabeth Warren's claim that he told her in 2018 that a woman could not win the presidency. Sanders has denied saying this, stressing on Sunday that the country has come a long way over the past few decades and that anyone can become president.

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