Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have animated post-debate exchange

Democratic Presidential Candidates Participate In Presidential Primary Debate In Des Moines, Iowa
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders speak as Tom Steyer looks on after the Democratic presidential primary debate Tuesday night in Des Moines.
(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

One of the most talked-about moments of Tuesday night’s Democratic debate happened after it ended, with a terse exchange between Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren after the handshake that wasn’t.

During the debate, moderators pressed both presidential candidates on reports that Sanders told Warren during a private 2018 meeting that a woman could not defeat President Trump. Sanders adamantly said that didn’t happen, while Warren stood by the account.

When Sanders reached a hand out to Warren after the debate ended, presumably for a handshake, Warren instead clasped her own hands together. The senators traded words — presidential candidate Tom Steyer awkwardly walked up mid-conversation — before they parted ways.

During the exchange, Warren expressed concern that Sanders had misrepresented the 2018 conversation, the New York Times reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the interaction. Sanders asked that they discuss it another time, the Times reported, citing anonymous sources.


warren sanders debate exchange

Some CNN moderators analyzing the exchange believed it meant that the issue was left unresolved. The senators, Sanders of Vermont and Warren of Massachusetts, have been at odds over it since Monday.

The peace pact between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren is over, which could mean a tense Democratic debate Tuesday in Des Moines.

“To see those two have that level of vitriol was very dispiriting,” said commentator Van Jones.


Steyer, when asked about what happened, said he didn’t hear what Sanders or Warren said.

“I was really just trying to say goodnight to both of them,” Steyer told reporters. “I think they were trying to figure out something between the two of them, but I didn’t really hear what it was.”

Later, on CNN, he elaborated: “It was one of those awkward moments where I felt like, ‘I need to move on as fast as possible.’”

Times staff writers Evan Halper and Matt Pearce contributed to this report.

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