‘Rigged’: Critics Cry Foul as CNN Debate Slants Against Bernie Sanders

DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are infuriated by the results of the seventh Democrat presidential debate in Iowa because it appears that moderators favored Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the debate hosted by CNN on Tuesday.

The clearest example of bias cited by debate watchers was when CNN moderator Abby Phillips had the following exchange with Sanders and Warren:

Phillips: You’re saying that you never told Senator Warren that a woman couldn’t win the election?

Bernie: Correct.

Phillips: Warren, what did you think when Sanders said a woman couldn’t win the election?

Warren: I disagreed. Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie.

After the debate, Warren pointedly refused to shake Sen. Sanders’s hand, a puzzling move, as Warren tried to paint her relationship with the Vermont Senator as respectful and collegial.

The story kicking off the alleged claim of Sanders’ sexist remark towards Warren in 2018 was published Monday by CNN and prominently featured on their network before the debate.

Phillips followed up by asking Sen. Amy Klobuchar, “What do you say to people who say that a woman can’t win this election?”

Warren did not repeat her claim against Sanders during the debate, and Phillips and other CNN moderators failed to cross-examine the Massachusetts senator’s account of what occurred during their conversation.

Warren instead pivoted into an answer that trumpeted women running successfully for elections, earning loud cheers from the debate audience.

Supporters also claim that CNN moderators focused more attention on demanding that Sen. Bernie Sanders explain how he plans to pay for his socialist programs, ignoring Warren’s proposals for similar programs.

Sanders’ campaign co-chair Nina Turner immediately pointed out CNN’s bias in a series of screenshots on Twitter.

After the debate, many of the Democrats on the CNN panel immediately declared Warren the victor of the debate, noting her strong performance.

“I think what Bernie forgot is that this isn’t a he-said, she-said story,” political consultant Jess McIntosh said after the debate. “This is a reported out story that CNN was a part of breaking, so to have him just flat out say, ‘no,’ wasn’t nearly enough for the women watching.”

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper corrected McIntosh to note that Warren’s entire accusation and Sanders’ response was basically a “he said, she said” case, as there were only two people in the meeting — Sanders and Warren.

But the rest of the panel delivered unanimous praise for Warren’s debate performance.

Campaign manager for former President Barack Obama David Axelrod said that it was Warren’s “best debate.”

“She was consistent, strong, emphatic, I think she did what she came there to do,” he said.

Political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson said that Warren had the “best plan,” the “best energy” and the “best moment” in the debate.

Even Van Jones said that “this was Elizabeth Warren’s night.”

“She knocked that moment out of the park,” Jones said, arguing that Sanders “stepped on a banana peel” during the debate.

“It was an out of the park moment for her,” said Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash after the debate, praising the “clever way” that Warren brought in Klobuchar to rally the “sisterhood” on stage.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders immediately reacted to what they saw as a rigged debate by sharing the hashtag #CNNisTrash that trended quickly on Twitter after the debate.


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