By Peter Hasson
CNN faced backlash Tuesday night after debate moderator Abby Phillip took Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s side and stated as fact that Sen. Bernie Sanders told Warren in a private conversation that a woman couldn’t win the presidential election.
Warren has accused Sanders of telling her in a private 2018 dinner that a woman candidate couldn’t win the 2020 race — but Sanders has adamantly denied her accusation. Phillip took Warren’s side in her questioning of the two senators in Tuesday night’s Democratic debate.
“CNN reported yesterday and senator warren confirmed in a statement that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe a woman could win the presidential election. Why did you say that?” Phillip asked Sanders.
“So Sen. Sanders, I do want to be clear here, you’re saying that you never told Sen. Warren that a woman could not win the election?” the moderator clarified.
“That is correct,” Sanders answered.
Phillip then proceeded to question Warren, from Massachusetts, as though it was an indisputable fact that Sanders, from Vermont, said what he denies saying.
“Sen. Warren, what did you think when Sen. Sanders told you that a woman could not win the election?” she asked.
The CNN moderator’s one-sided questioning of Sanders and Warren drew sharp criticisms from other journalists.
It's WILD that CNN didn't ask Warren to positively state that Bernie told her "a woman can't win," seconds after he positively denied that it happened. Just "what did you think when he said that to you?" Absolute malpractice.
— Andrew Egger (@EggerDC) January 15, 2020
“Seriously it is outrageous that CNN would take Warren’s accusation as a statement of fact,” The Hill’s Saagar Enjeti wrote on Twitter, calling the one-sided questioning “Media malpractice.”
Washington Examiner commentary editor Tim Carney said that “Bernie was mistreated by CNN” in the exchange.
“It was a very telling moment when Bernie said he didn’t say a woman couldn’t win and then in the very next moment, the moderator just asserted that he had,” Reason magazine senior editor Robby Soave commented.
Soave’s fellow editor at Reason, Stephanie Slade, was similarly critical of Phillip questioning.
“That question to Warren, which stated as an unqualified fact her side in an unsubstantiated he said/she said dispute with Sanders, was journalistic effing malpractice,” Slade tweeted.
That question to Warren, which stated as an unqualified fact her side in an unsubstantiated he said/she said dispute with Sanders, was journalistic effing malpractice.
— (Stephanie) Slade (@sladesr) January 15, 2020
“Why is @CNN stating unequivocally that @BernieSanders told @ewarren a woman can’t be president when they weren’t there and Sanders is denying it?!” asked Fox Business producer Lydia Moynihan. “That’s not a report, that’s a rumor.”
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