Seventh Democratic debate creates rift between Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren

The 7th Democratic debate proved to be the most uneventful debate so far. Maybe it was because of the smaller pool of candidates — six, in comparison to the 20 candidates in the first debate — or maybe it was because it was the last debate before the primary elections and candidates were being particularly cautious with their words as so not to lose any of their supporters. Either way, the relative mildness of the evening made the lone dramatic event much more sensationalized in the news. 

The controversy occurred when CNN reporter Abby Phillip asked Bernie Sanders why he had said he didn’t believe a woman could be president during a private meeting between him and Elizabeth Warren. Sanders denied making this statement, despite there being four accounts backing up this claim. 

After Sanders denied the claim, Phillip turned to Warren, asking Warren what she thought “when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election.” Warren said that she disagreed with the statement he made, but that Bernie was her “friend” and that she was not there “to fight” him. 

After the debate, Warren approached Sanders on stage saying, “I think you called me a liar on national TV.” Sanders refused to engage. 

While Sanders has taken a good deal of heat from these accusations, Phillip has received the most criticism from news networks for the way that she phrased the question. Fox News, in particular, has taken the stance that Phillip’s wording was biased and made unfair assumptions that favored Warren.  

Republican political analyst Gayle Trotter appeared on Fox News, calling out Phillip for unethical journalism. Trotter called the event “part of a long history of controversies with bias by journalists.”

On the other hand, Democrat strategist Joe Trippi appeared on Fox News to defend Phillip, saying that she was just trying to “stand by the network’s reporting.” 

As a journalist, I have to admit that I’m a bit biased on this issue. I agree most with the statement Trippi made. Because CNN had previously reported on the conversation between Sanders and Warren as fact, it would have been traitorous for Phillip to not present it as so. I don’t believe the blame should be placed on her. Instead, we should focus on the two politicians actually involved in the matter: Warren and Sanders. And while we’re there, maybe we should question if it even matters. 

Because it was a private meeting, it is impossible to know if Sanders actually made this statement, and if so, the context it was made in. The four sources who confirmed the event were not actually present at the meeting, but two of them talked to Warren directly after and the rest were “familiar with the meeting,” according to CNN. 

It’s also important to consider that, because it was a pretty uneventful debate night, the news networks are simply making a mountain out of a molehill to fill air time. Both Sanders and Warren have refused to make further comment on the conversation. Because they are aligned on almost all of the same issues, it is possible that they are trying to avoid any more clashes in the spirit of uniting their followings to make sure that one of them is elected.  

The Democratic primaries will begin in Iowa Feb. 3. If you would like to stay updated, I would suggest checking out the PocketPolls app. It’s concise and easy to use. 

Check back next week for another political column and, as always, feel free to leave your comments below.