Sanders has a contentious and complicated history with Clinton, his former rival

By Sean Neumann
January 23, 2020 05:18 PM
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Hillary Clinton is not mincing words about Bernie Sanders — in both an upcoming documentary, where she calls him a “career politician” whom “nobody likes,” and in an interview published Tuesday where she took aim at his supporters.

In that interview, for a cover story in The Hollywood Reporter about the four-part Hulu doc Hillary, the former Democratic presidential nominee and secretary of state confirmed she stands by a scathing assessment of Sanders which she made in the documentary.

Sanders, Clinton’s erstwhile rival and a longtime Vermont senator who votes with but is not a Democrat, is one of the leading candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination after losing to Clinton in the 2016 primary.

“He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done,” Clinton, 72, says in the documentary, according to THR. “He was a career politician. It’s all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.”

Sanders, 78, has a contentious and complicated history with Clinton. He ran a surprisingly strong — but ultimately unsuccessful — campaign against her for the Democratic presidential nomination. She went on to narrowly lose the general election to President Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, Sanders brushed off Clinton’s comments when NBC White House correspondent Geoff Bennett asked the senator for his reaction: “On a good day, my wife likes me, so let’s clear the air on that one,” Sanders replied.

When Bennett asked Sanders why he thinks Clinton is still talking about 2016, Sanders said, “That’s a good question. You should ask her.”

Despite the fact that Sanders has a strong chance at winning the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton told THR that she wasn’t prepared to say whether she’ll endorse and campaign for him.

“I’m not going to go there yet,” Clinton said. “We’re still in a very vigorous primary season.”

Later Tuesday, Clinton tweeted that she would “do whatever I can to support our nominee” and that her ultimate goal was defeating Trump.

She took a jocular, verging on sarcastic tone in responding to the headlines about her Sanders’ comments.

“I thought everyone wanted my authentic, unvarnished views!” she wrote. “But to be serious, the number one priority for our country and world is retiring Trump, and, as I always have, I will do whatever I can to support our nominee.”

From left: former presidential nominee and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Sen. Bernie Sanders, who endorsed her in 2016
| Credit: Taylor Hill/WireImage

Even though Sanders endorsed Clinton as the nominee and campaigned for her in 2016, the two have not had a warm relationship.

In one primary debate, Sanders said Clinton wasn’t “qualified” to be president — something she continued to take issue with in her THR interview this week.

The Clinton camp was also critical of the fact that Sanders didn’t immediately back her for president after she beat him out for the nomination and, indeed, insisted on continuing to run a Democratic primary campaign even when it became clear that he had lost.

Sanders’ supporters have their own grievances. Hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee showed some party officials had a bias toward Clinton. Clinton, in turn, took umbrage with the behavior of some of Sanders’ backers.

“Some of his supporters, the so-called ‘Bernie Bros,’ took to harassing my supporters online. It got ugly and more than a little sexist,” Clinton wrote in What Happened, her memoir about the 2016 election. “Nonetheless, his attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.”

From left: Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016
| Credit: Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty

In the 2020 primary, Sanders has been in another recent conflict, this time with fellow progressive Elizabeth Warren. Earlier this month, Sen. Warren said that Sanders told her in 2018 that a woman couldn’t become president in 2020 — which Sanders has vehemently denied.

“Anybody knows me knows that it’s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman cannot be president of the United States,” Sanders said when asked about his comments at the mid-January primary debate. “Go to YouTube today. There’s a video of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become president of the United States.”

Clinton doesn’t seem to be buying it, telling THR:

“It’s not only him, it’s the culture around him. “It’s his leadership team. It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it. And I don’t think we want to go down that road again where you campaign by insult and attack and maybe you try to get some distance from it, but you either don’t know what your campaign and supporters are doing or you’re just giving them a wink and you want them to go after Kamala [Harris] or after Elizabeth [Warren]. I think that that’s a pattern that people should take into account when they make their decisions.”