Bernie Sanders Responds to Accusations of Sexism and Sexual Harassment In His 2016 Campaign

FILE - In this July 25, 2016 file photo, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Moving beyond “Obamacare,” political activists are looking to ballot questions in a couple of major states as a new election-year front in the nation’s long-running debate over the role of government in health care. California voters will decide whether to limit what drug companies can charge many state programs, while Coloradans will vote on a state version of a “single-payer” government-run health system, similar to what Sanders proposed in his hard-fought but unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

As a feminist conservative, one of the things I find particularly irritating is the idea that bad behavior is limited to only one side of the aisle. For example, it’s frustrating to watch partisans on one side criticize the other for sexual behavior, then ignore the same behavior by their own side.


I sometimes find it difficult to write about problems with the Left in a meaningful way for RedState; I write on a right-wing website for a right-wing audience, so it’s not as though I carry great weight with the left or its audiences, and criticizing the Left on this medium can feel ineffective because I’m essentially preaching to the choir. Furthermore, as a lifelong Republican, I care more about the direction of the Republican Party, and I expect more from it.

But it’s important that the Left acknowledge that its side has its own issues with treating women with respect. I wrote about some of those issues — from Bill Clinton’s celebrity status on the Left until he was no longer useful, to Hillary Clinton defiantly ignoring sexual harassment on her 2016 presidential campaign, to abusers like Harvey Weinstein and Eric Schneiderman — in this piece, and now it seems as though the 2016 presidential campaign for Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) must be added to the list.

The New York Times reported yesterday that stories “describing episodes of sexual harassment and demeaning treatment as well as pay disparity” in Sanders’ 2016 election campaign “have circulated in recent weeks in emails, online comments, and private discussions among former supporters.”


According to the Times,

“There was an entire wave of rotten sexual harassment that seemingly was never dealt with,” one of the delegates wrote in a December email, obtained by The New York Times, to a Sanders political strategist.

The Sanders campaign issued a response, stating “there were a number of HR actions taken” during the 2016 presidential campaign and “robust policies and processes regarding discrimination and harassment” were implemented for the 2018 Senate campaign:

Then, when later asked about the stories in an interview with Anderson Cooper last night, Sanders apologized to “any woman who felt she was not treated appropriately” and promised “we will do better the next time.

When Anderson asks Sanders if he personally was aware of the allegations, Sanders at first sidesteps the question, talking about how large and quickly his campaign grew and the steps they had taken to prevent and respond to sexual harassment, forcing Cooper to ask for clarification.


Cooper asks again, “Just to be clear, you seemed to indicate that you did not know at the time about the allegations — is that correct?”

Sanders responds, “Yes. I was a little bit busy running around the country trying to make the case.”

Altogether, though his answer seemed strong, I don’t think it actually was. It’s good he issued an apology, and the steps he says they took are impressive, but he ducked the original question about his own knowledge and ended his response with snark. Yes, the campaign may have grown quickly, but at the end of the day, he’s still at the top of an organization that was created with the sole purpose of representing him. He should know what’s going on within his own campaign, and he should expect questions about how sexual harassment occurred and if he personally knew about it.

Furthermore, I don’t find his answer regarding his own knowledge particularly convincing, especially because Cooper had to force him to definitively answer. However, given the frustrated and disappointed attitudes expressed by the women in the Times article, we’ll surely find out soon whether he was honest or whether he, like Hillary, ignored issues on his campaign, despite claiming to be better on such issues than Republicans.


Also, as a side-note — the Times also reported:

The senator’s campaign committee acknowledged that there were pay disparities but said salaries were based on experience or the nature of the job and “never determined based on any consideration of an individual’s gender or of any other personal characteristic.’’

Surely Democrats can see that this sounds exactly like what Republicans often say about the wage disparity between men and women (though I do believe both sides oversimplify it; Alex Muresianu’s piece about the wage disparity is a must-read).

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.


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