WASHINGTON — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ top presidential campaign surrogates, said Tuesday that it’s “important” to say that women can win elections, after Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Sanders had told her in a private meeting that he did not believe a woman could win the White House in 2020.
“I think with that whole situation, I kind of defer to both of their campaigns,” Ocasio-Cortez said when asked by reporters about Warren’s statement. “But, you know, I think it’s also important to say that of course women can win.”
Electing women is “part of a progressive ideology,” she added. “I know that the senator believes that as well.”
The clash between Sanders and Warren broke open Monday when CNN reported that Sanders had said he didn’t believe a woman could win. The Sanders campaign argued the comments were made up by “staff who weren’t in the room [and] are lying about what happened,” and the Warren campaign initially declined to comment. BuzzFeed News later reported that Warren herself had told this to people close to her following the meeting in late 2018.
By Monday evening, the Warren campaign released a statement from the candidate confirming CNN’s original story.
“I thought a woman could win; he disagreed," she said.
Last November, Rep. Ayanna Pressley split with "the Squad" — as she, Ocasio-Cortez, and Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have come to call themselves — to endorse Warren. In a brief interview with BuzzFeed News on Tuesday morning, Pressley didn’t mention Sanders by name.
“We’re coming up on the Women’s March, right? In 2017 we held these signs that said ‘Today we march, tomorrow we run,’” she said. “People didn’t believe us, and now we’re serving in a Congress with an unprecedented number of women. The thing is, like, women are underestimated all the time. So that’s it. You know? Obviously, I believe this is the year of the woman, and I’m a proud cochair of the Warren campaign.”
Though Sanders and Warren were friendly with each other during the early months of the primary, a fight began to simmer as the Iowa caucuses neared. Politico reported over the weekend that the Sanders campaign had prepared talking points arguing Warren is a candidate for elites and would not expand the Democratic Party’s base.
Sanders denied that he had anything to do with the script.
“I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me. I hope Bernie reconsiders and turns his campaign in a different direction,” Warren told reporters of the talking points, before adding, “We all saw the impact of the factionalism in 2016, and we can’t have a repeat of that. Democrats need to unite our party, and that means pulling in all parts of the Democratic coalition.”
On Tuesday night, both senators will participate in the last debate before the first votes are finally cast in the primaries, where they’re sure to be asked about the conversation, though the Warren campaign has been trying to tamp down the flames, BuzzFeed News reported Tuesday.
“I would be careful with the ‘sexism’ angle when it comes to the Bernie/Warren exchange individually — that’s not what this is about and I think it’ll be really bad news for us if that becomes what this is about (i.e. press asking her if she thinks Bernie is sexist),” one staffer told supporters. “Is that what this is about broadly? Absolutely. But no one here is actually claiming Bernie himself is sexist (regardless of your own personal beliefs on that topic).”