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The continuing dispute between 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) during this week’s debate is part of a “concerted effort” by Warren and mainstream media outlets to sabotage Sanders ahead of the Iowa caucuses, investigative reporter Dave Lindorff told Sputnik.

During a “hot mic” exchange after the presidential debate in Des Moines on Tuesday, Warren told Sanders: “I think you called me a liar on national TV.”  Warren was referring to their earlier encounter on stage about whether Sanders told Warren back in 2018 that a woman could not win the presidency, a story that was quickly picked up by mainstream outlets such as the New York Times and CNN, which backed up Warren’s allegations based on four anonymous sources.

“It’s a problem for Sanders, clearly,” Lindorff, who is also a columnist for CounterPunch and a contributor to Businessweek, The Nation, Extra! and Salon, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker, referring to the impact the dispute will have on Sanders’ campaign.

“Anything that attacks his support base from whatever part of it is a challenge. He’s got to get any delegate vote he can get. At the start, there’s this whole thing about momentum, about taking candidates seriously, and Sanders has been ignored up until recently. If he is hurt in Iowa or hurt in New Hampshire – or Nevada, I guess, too – then they’ll go back to saying he’s a hopeless candidate. So, it’s not really a kerfuffle. I would agree with you that there is a concerted effort to get Sanders early and hard,” Lindorff noted.

“I read the initial piece that was done by CNN, which is a real classic hit piece. There were four anonymous sources … [speaking on] a private meeting between Sanders and Warren to which there were no witnesses. So, clearly … CNN was willing to go with an article giving anonymity to those sources and calling them leaks, and Warren allowed that to sit there without any confirmation. She refused to comment for a whole day, which allowed it to go to the Times, which also ran it with no sourcing,” he said. 

“A huge amount of damage was done to Sanders … right before the debate, which was a CNN-sponsored debate. The shabbiness of CNN in this case was just appalling. First of all, the idea of unidentified sources are supposed to be unidentified because they face some kind of risk. And what risk were these guys facing?” Lindorff noted.

“She’s [Warren] trying to climb onto the MeToo movement with a political hit,” Lindorff added, referring to the movement by sexual assault survivors to challenge cultural prejudices behind the widespread disbelief at sexual assault allegations.

During Tuesday night’s debate, after a moderator asked Sanders about the details of his 2018 conversation with Warren, he denied the accusation.

“As a matter of fact, I didn’t say it,” Sanders said at the debate. “Anyone who knows me knows that it is incomprehensible that I do not think a woman could be president of the United States.”

The Vermont Senator highlighted how he had urged Warren to run for president once before, and how he would assist any Democratic nominee to defeat US President Donald Trump, regardless of their gender.

“Obviously, this was teed up by CNN by their first story. Then they had promos talking about the battle to come over the dispute between Sanders and Warren. These debates get terrible ratings, and here’s CNN stuck having to air it, and they were trying to boost their ratings shamelessly,” Lindorff said. 

“What they were afraid of, I suppose, was that Sanders and Warren would not get into a fight, and that would ruin the whole thing. So they were prodding, and the prodding was really outrageous. It was an alleged statement between two people and everything was hearsay,” he continued, adding that Warren has “a history of dissembling to win votes.”

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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