CNN is being accused of "media malpractice" over its handling of the disputed claim that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told Sen. Elizabeth Warren., D-Mass., that a woman couldn't win the presidency during a December 2018 meeting.
The liberal news network broke the story on Monday. The network cited unnamed sources close to Warren who claimed that the Vermont senator told her that he didn't believe she could win a presidential election because she's a woman. Sanders denied the claim, but Warren affirmed the report.
At Tuesday night's debate in Iowa, Sanders was asked about the dustup by CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip.
"CNN reported yesterday that- and Senator Warren confirmed in a statement-- that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman can win the election. Why did you say that?" Phillip asked.
"Well, as a matter of fact, I didn't say it," Sanders sharply replied. "Anybody who knows me knows that it's incomprehensible that I would think that a woman cannot be president of the United States. Go to YouTube today. There's some video of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become president of the United States."
Sanders then pointed to his attempt to "draft" Warren to run for president in 2016 and vowed to support the eventual Democratic nominee, including female candidates like Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
"Senator Sanders, I do want to be clear here. You're saying that you never told Senator Warren that a woman could not win the election," Phillip followed.
"That is correct," Sanders answered.
"Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win an election?" Phillip then asked the progressive rival, which sparked audible laughs in the auditorium and a shake of the head from Sanders.
That exchange sparked intense backlash on social media.
"Incredible. The CNN moderator asked Warren as if it were de facto true that Bernie told her a woman couldn't be president. I cannot believe a moderator did not ask her if it was true. She just said straight up what did you think when Bernie said that to you? I'm blown away." Daily Caller editor-in-chief Geoffrey Ingersoll reacted.
"Wait CNN just refused to listen to Bernie and just took what Warren said was the truth? progressive commentator Hasan Piker asked, later adding "what CNN is doing tonight should be criminal."
"The kids gloves the moderators have right now is exasperating. Both candidates are, in effect, calling the other a liar. And they're being allowed to just skate past it!" Washington Free Beacon reporter Alex Griswold exclaimed.
"Seriously it is outrageous that CNN would take Warren's accusation as a statement of fact. Media malpractice," The Hill TV host Saagar Enjeti declared.
Even Donald Trump Jr. went to bat for Sanders and slammed the liberal network.
"How did CNN just pretend that Bernie didn’t totally deny that he said a woman couldn’t win and pretend like it it was a fact just because Warren said so? It’s not like her entire persona isn’t built on lies... Is the fix against Bernie in again???" the president's son questioned.
Sanders flatly denied the claim that was made in CNN's report on Monday while Warren initially did not comment on the claim.
"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," Sanders told Fox News. "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."
Following the report, a video clip from 1988 surfaced of Sanders expressing his support for a woman to become president.
"The real issue is not whether you're black or white, whether you're a woman or a man -- in my view, a woman could be elected president of the United States," Sanders said at the time while backing Jesse Jackson's candidacy. "The real issue is whose side are you on? Are you on the side of workers and poor people or are you on the side of big money and the corporations?"
However, Warren issued a statement affirming the report.
"Bernie and I met for more than two hours in December 2018 to discuss the 2020 election, our past work together and our shared goals: beating Donald Trump, taking back our government from the wealthy and well-connected, and building an economy that works for everyone. Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed," Warren said.
She continued, "I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry. I'm in this race to talk about what's broken in this country and how to fix it -- and that's what I'm going to continue to do. I know Bernie is in the race for the same reason. We have been friends and allies in this fight for a 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."