Sanders’ Former Press Secretary Says She Experienced Racism On The Trail

In an interview for online newsletter Lenny, Symone Sanders said the Vermont senator was horrified when she told him about her experience.

Bernie Sanders’ former national press secretary says she experienced repeated incidents of racism on the campaign trail, and at one point broke down in tears in her car.

In an interview for Lenny, an online newsletter co-founded by Lena Dunham, 26-year-old Symone Sanders (no relation to the Vermont senator) spoke with writer Mikki Halpin and described several instances in which felt she was discriminated against as a high-ranking black female campaign worker.

Mikki Halpin: Last time we spoke, you told me about some really frustrating experiences you had on the road that you felt were definitely related to being a woman of color. Do you want to talk a little bit about those?

Symone Sanders: There were multiple instances. There were places where I literally I couldn't get in. I would go to the door, the staff entrance, and people would say, "This is staff only." I'd have to explain to them that I was staff, and they would question me. I would have to say, "I'm the national press secretary. Did you watch me on the news the other day?" It was consistently happening. There was one week where it happened the entire week.

My breaking point was a time when I had let the event staff know I was having trouble getting in places and asked them if they could just really make an extra effort for this particular day, because it had been a long week. Like, "Could you please just let folks know that I'm coming and that I'm black?"

You don't think you'd have to say those things, but I said, "Let them know there's going to be a black girl that's going to come to the front and please let her in."

Symone Sanders also described one incident in which a man came running up to her car at a campaign building yelling and banging on the window, "telling me to get the F out of here, this is for staff, and that I didn't belong back here."

"I broke down in the car. I cracked my window down and I said, 'I'm the national press secretary!'" Symone Sanders said. "I was just crying. Eventually someone came down and let me in."

She added that when she told the presidential candidate about what happened, he and his wife were horrified.

"They knew it was plain old racism and nothing else," she said.

Symone Sanders tweeted Saturday to reiterate that the experiences of racism that she experienced came from venue staff while on the road, and not from the campaign staff that she worked alongside in the Sanders campaign.

I can't even take a nap without something going left. In the ELLE/LENNY interview, I detailed discrimination I experienced from venue staff

The staff was amazing. I have never said a disparaging thing about any of my former coworkers because there is nothing disparaging to say.

This has nothing to do with campaign staff & everything to do with bias, racism & close-mindedness that permeates every level of society.

Unfortunately, instances like the one I described happen all the time. That's why we have to do the work of breaking down racial barriers.

Symone Sanders left the campaign on June 26 to work for the Democratic National Campaign Convention.

BuzzFeed News has reached out to a Bernie Sanders spokesperson for comment.

Read the full Lenny interview here.

Skip to footer