A senior adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 bid previously called him “overhyped” and said she “cringed” at a joke he made in reference to allegations he inappropriately touched women.
Symone Sanders, whose hiring was announced this week, told McClatchy in February that “the conversation about [Biden] being the front-runner is overhyped, frankly.”
‘Anyone who is frontrunner a year out from Iowa, a year out from South Carolina, is a front-runner because of name identification,” she said, although she did call a Biden candidacy “formidable.”
Sanders, a prominent Democratic strategist and former Sen. Bernie Sanders campaign staffer, said on CNN in December that she questioned how much room Biden has to grow in popularity as a candidate.
“I think the thing that will be concerning, if I was someone advising Vice President Joe Biden, which, to be clear, I'm not, is that….his name recognition is that. People know the vice president. So the question is, how much room does he have to grow, if any?” she asked.
Biden came under fire this month when allegations of improper conduct with women emerged. Although he apologized and issued a video statement, he also made light of the situation when he joked that he “had permission to hug” a union president whom he embraced at an event.
“I cringed, much like, I'm sure, many people at the table today cringed,” Symone said about the joke on CNN earlier this month. “But look, I think that -- I do believe the video was sincere, his comments after today were sincere, and he is publicly working through this. Voters are going to have to decide if this and the many other things that are deal breakers for them.”
Sanders later said she “didn’t think the joke was funny.”
“I didn’t think it was funny because for lots of little girls and women watching, what they saw was is someone coming forward saying they don't like something that someone did, someone made them feel uncomfortable, and then the response was the man or the gentleman in the situation making light of it,” she said.
However, despite that remark, she said that she didn’t think Biden meant any harm: “I think it was an off-the-cuff careless remark, which is why you saw him go to camera after as soon as he got off the stage, went to camera unprompted.“
“I think that this is something that won't keep him out of the race for president and voters are going to have to make a decision about if this disqualifying for him or not. But I think this is something that will continue to come up, and he is having a real-time conversation with the American people. And that's more than I can say for Donald Trump.”
The remarks aren’t the only ones that Sanders has made that are resurfacing since she took the job on the Biden campaign. Footage from November 2016 that resurfaced this week shows her expressing her opposition to a white person leading her party after Donald Trump's election.
“In my opinion, we don't need white people leading the Democratic Party right now,” Sanders said during a discussion on Howard Dean potentially becoming Democratic National Committee chairman.
“The Democratic party is diverse, and it should be reflected as so in leadership and throughout the staff, at the highest levels. From the vice chairs to the secretaries all the way down to the people working in the offices at the DNC,” she said, in remarks resurfaced by RealClearPolitics.
Sanders wrapped up her remarks by saying: “I want to hear more from everybody. I want to hear from the millennials and the brown folks.”
But the controversy has not prevented Biden’s long-awaited campaign from a largely successful opening, drawing in more than $6.3 million in the first 24 hours.
Fox News’ Liam Quinn contributed to this report.