Media Criticism

Watch the Media Manufacture a Dumb Story About Bernie Sanders and Sexism

No, Sanders didn't say Warren is surging just because she's a woman.


During the 2016 campaign, some of Hillary Clinton's defenders in the media claimed that the fervent online male supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), the oft-derided Bernie Bros, were aggressive, sexist harassers, and that Sanders was not doing enough to stop them. There wasn't much backing up these claims that Bernie Bros were uniquely obnoxious—all major campaigns attract hardcore fans—or even that they were mostly "bros"—Sanders was more popular among young women than Clinton was—but the narrative stuck around.

Reasons to be critical of Sanders are numerous: He was an apologist for the brutal, rapacious communist regimes in places like the Soviet Union and Cuba; he's called open borders a "right-wing Koch brothers proposal" and opposes it because he perceives that high levels of immigration would threaten his Medicare for All schemes; he wants to fight poverty in all the wrong ways. Indeed, it appears that he doesn't even understand the difference between revenue and profit. These are significant flaws—there's no need to invent a fake sexism narrative.

Three years later, some media organizations are still pushing the idea that Sanders has a problem with women. This week, both Vanity Fair and Jezebel lashed out at Sanders for suggesting that he was losing ground to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) because some voters would prefer to elect a female president. "Sanders: Warren Is Surging Because She's Got Ovaries," was the Vanity Fair headline.

Unsurprisingly, this is a gross oversimplification of what Sanders actually said. Sanders was asked by CNN's Chris Cuomo, "What do you think the reason is that Elizabeth Warren is catching up to you in polls. Do you think people see her as the most electable version of Bernie Sanders?" Sanders responded:

"I think we are running against a lot of problems. I think there are a certain number of people who would like to see a woman elected, and I understand that. There are people who would like to see somebody who is younger, and I understand that also. There are a lot of factors out there. Elizabeth is a friend of mine and I think she is running a good campaign."

It's clear from Sanders' full statement that the spin was uncharitable. Sanders did not suggest that Warren's possession of ovaries was some insurmountable advantage: He merely pointed out that there are other candidates better positioned to capitalize on progressives' appetite for intersectional, identity-based appeals than he is.

Contributing to the smear, of course, was CNN's own clipping of Sanders' quote, which appeared in tweet form like this:

Having trimmed Sanders' repeated statements that he understands and appreciates where Warren's supporters are coming from, likes her, and is impressed with her campaign, CNN's tweet made Sanders look much more embittered, as if he was lashing out at women for not backing him. You'd be forgiven for thinking some kind of narrative, disguised as objective news, was being pushed.

Whether Sanders' diagnosis of the Warren surge is correct remains another matter. Warren is less well-known to the public than Sanders—who already ran for president before—and thus she might have more immediately winnable people out there. Sanders may have peaked, having already captured the support of most of the people who would vote for him. And while Warren and Sanders are both stridently progressive, and support far-reaching legislation that would vastly expand the federal government and grow the deficit, Sanders is a political independent and a self-described democratic socialist, which might limit his appeal.

These are all subjects an interviewer could broach with Sanders—without manufacturing a non-story about Sanders being anti-women.

NEXT: When They See Us Is Compelling Storytelling, but Not All Rings True

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  1. I certainly remember that woman on Reason TV who was voting for Hillary because of “Girl Power.” Not to mention the slew of books about how it’s time for a female president. And so on and on.

    But for a man to allude to this is sexist and wrong.

    The Michael Kinsley definition of a gaffe – a politician saying something true.

    Which ought to be commended in a socialist, for whom the truth is usually a stranger.

  2. To be sure, open borders is a right-wing Koch brothers proposal”. Just with 100% buy-in from leftists, who simply see open borders as importing future left-wing voters (i.e., doing the job Americans won’t do).

    1. Haha. Yeah. There’s no slavery anymore, but we still need brown people to do our dirty work for us.

      The modern progressive, folks. Ain’t they virtuous?

    2. The Kochs *are* left wing now.

      Politics is realigning.

      Globalists to the Left.
      Nationalists to the Right.

      Nick declared Reason to be on Team Globalist to further their “cover value” of Open Borders Uber Alles:
      In the 21st century, libertarians are going to have make common cause with the globalists of all parties, with the people whose core value is the right of individuals to move freely around the planet.

  3. Even if Sanders was being “bitter” he wouldn’t be entirely wrong. I remember during 2016 some of the women supporting Hillary openly said they were voting with their vaginas. I wouldn’t be surprised if that contingent supported Warren or Harris for exactly the same reason.

    1. The fact that every president has had a penis is just an amazing coincidence and definitely had nothing to do with having a penis being an enormous* advantage.

      *Insert joke

        1. That America deserves to be afflicted by a President like Hillary Clinton as punishment for its sexist sins.

      1. “Identititarian politics forever and ever!”

      2. Yeah, Tony, the same kind of “advantage” a penis gives you for being killed in the military or by falling logs.

        See, Tony, the thing is: men occupy dangerous and highly competitive jobs because men are disposable. It doesn’t matter much to society or the survival of the species whether any particular man reproduces or not because it doesn’t take a lot of men to create the next generation.

        But in a sustainable society, most women need to reproduce, on average more than twice. That’s why women historically had the option of living in homes without earning a living and without risking life and limb.

        So, Tony, science tells us that having a penis is a big disadvantage: it means you probably won’t reproduce and you have a much higher chance of getting killed early. I thought you leftists pretend you actually like concepts like “science” and “sustainability”; you should actually apply them!

    2. That’s true, they weren’t even pretending it wasn’t about her sex, and I don’t doubt that Warren and Harris have a strong component of their support, (To the extent they do have strong support, which is pretty limited.) originating in the same naked sexism.

    3. #VoteVagina

  4. Wait. Are you claiming that CNN deceptively edits?
    Say it ain’t so.
    (full disclosure; I was not aware CNN was still broadcasting. If I can still use the term broadcasting)

    1. How do you not know that CNN is still on? They’re constantly being criticized on all non-leftist websites.

      1. “How do you not know that CNN is still on?”

        Dentists’ waiting room.

    2. Being a CABLE network news, CNN never really was broadcasting, were they?

  5. he perceives that high levels of immigration would threaten his Medicare for All schemes

    Well it would. It’s going to be expensive enough giving 99% of Americans welfare, never mind adding in out of towners.

  6. “he’s called open borders a ‘right-wing Koch brothers proposal’ and opposes it because he perceives that high levels of immigration would threaten his Medicare for All schemes”

    I have criticized Sanders many times for that ridiculous statement. However, there are signs he’s warming up to the Koch / Reason position on immigration. Today, for instance, he tweeted this:

    Here is my promise: As President I will: protect the undocumented, pass comprehensive immigration reform, reinstate legal status for DACA recipients and their parents

    More evidence of what I’ve been saying for months — libertarians and democratic socialists are natural allies.


    1. Excellent work. Glad you are feeling better.

    2. Nick previously declared Reason to be on Team Globalist to further their “cover value” of Open Borders Uber Alles:

      @nickgillespie, editor at large at @Reason, declares their “cover value” to be Open Borders Uber Alles:
      In the 21st century, libertarians are going to have make common cause with the globalists of all parties, with the people whose core value is the right of individuals to move freely around the planet.


  7. Don’t look at the replies to that CNN tweet. You have been warned.

    1. I did it anyway.
      My eyes hurt now.

  8. “It’s clear from Sanders’ full statement that the spin was uncharitable. ”

    Well, in line with his own ideology, charity is for the government to provide, not private individuals or businesses.

  9. I suppose Democrats hating Bernie Sanders for being a socialist is too much to hope for–like wishing that the Democrats hated Trump for being anti-free trade.

    Thatcher’s adage about socialists running out of other people’s money applies so widely. Even socialists like Sanders know that the problem with social justice warriors is that they always run out of other people to target.

    1. Haha. I’m looking forward to them turning on each other. Should be fun.

    2. Reason: Free trade is when American workers pay payroll and income taxes, while Emperor Xi’s imports pay no tax.

      Adam Smith disagrees, favoring tariffs to offset local taxes on production:

      “It will generally be advantageous to lay some burden upon foreign industry for the encouragement of domestic industry, when some tax is imposed at home upon the produce of the latter. In this case, it seems reasonable that an equal tax should be imposed upon the like produce of the former. This would not give the monopoly of the borne market to domestic industry, nor turn towards a particular employment a greater share of the stock and labour of the country, than what would naturally go to it. It would only hinder any part of what would naturally go to it from being turned away by the tax into a less natural direction, and would leave the competition between foreign and domestic industry, after the tax, as nearly as possible upon the same footing as before it.”

  10. I’d actually vote for Sanders if he said that the reason why Warren is gaining on him in the polls is because women won’t let their husbands, sons and fathers vote for “the boy.”

    1. I’m voting for Warren because I think it’s time we had a female president of color.

  11. Nom. nom. nom…

    That the left will eat itself is… inevitable.

  12. Does this mean CNN has chosen Warren over Sanders?

    1. I think it means they’ve chosen identity politics over socialism. To the extent they are incompatible…, where they INTERSECT…..the woman is the more oppressed than the white male Jew. Lizzy wins!!

    2. They’ve chosen rationality over chaos, reason over superstition, color over whiteness.

    3. It’s a test balloon.

  13. Warren is Sanders minus the crazy, minus the age (but not by much), minus the socialism, minus the insularity of Vermont, minus the also-ran, minus the scandals, minus the toxic cult, minus the penis. Ladies and gentlemen, the great uniter of the Democratic party.

    1. When listing the reasons why Warren is totally awesome, don’t forget her DNA test that definitively proved right-wingers lied when they said “She pretended to be Native American.”


      1. She’s not using that as an asset for her presidential qualifications, unlike her opponent who pretended to be a successful businessman.

        1. Except for the whole ‘yes I really am a Native American’ livestream thing.

        2. Catch a clue, Tony: Having irrational foes who insanely deny that you’re a successful businessman is not the same thing as being unsuccessful.

          1. He is not a successful businessman. He is an old-timey showman and con artist. He lost the fortune he inherited several times over.

            1. And yet is still incredibly wealthy from running businesses…

            2. And yet he remade that fortune several times over. Somehow this is forgotten.

              Look, I don’t like the man. So he’s made some bad business decisions and lost the family fortune – that just means that he built HIS CURRENT STATE FROM SCRATCH.

              So you can’t even ding him on the ‘oh, he’s rich from inherited money’ now can you?

      2. #FirstWomanOfColorPresident

    2. minus the scandals

      I try to stay out of the news scandals… what scandals? Or are you talking the Democratic field as a whole and not just Sanders?

    3. You forgot, added the fascism. She is using the term economic patriotism as an example. She wants government to control how businesses are run as another.

      1. Added the fraud in getting her position.

      2. Unlike her opponent who is manipulating global markets on staple goods because he loves the free market.

        1. For a man who spent the last years deriding everyone who cried ‘but Obama!’ every time he posted some shit Bush had done – and posted years after Bush left office – here you are crying ‘but Trump!’

    4. . . . minus the socialism . . .


      This is why you can’t be taken seriously.

      . . . minus the insularity of Vermont . . .

      Plus the insularity of Massachusetts.

      . . . minus the scandals . . .

      Well, except for the whole ‘I’m a real Indian, honest’ one.

      Oh, and her fight against tribal sovereignty.

      . . . minus the penis . . .

      You do know that valuing a candidate more because they don’t have a penis – or valuing one less because they do – is sexist, right?

    5. Warren is a successful New England intellectual, Sanders is a failed and lazy New England intellectual. You want neither of them anywhere near government.

  14. No, Sanders didn’t say Warren is surging just because she’s a woman.

    I think there are a certain number of people who would like to see a woman elected . . .

    No, that’s *exactly* what he is saying.

    What’s got people up in a tizzy is that we’re supposed to pretend voters aren’t really sexist and are deliberately looking at a candidate based – even if only in part – on her sex.

    Bernie is saying that Warren is surging because she’s a woman. He’s getting shit because he’s not supposed to call attention to things like that.

    1. I don’t care what they say about it not being carried by mosquitoes. If you’ve got hand herpes, no shakesies.

  15. Meh. Sexist. Communist. Economic illiterate. Whatever.
    As long as the doddering old fool doesn’t become president I don’t care whether the media sabotage is real or fake.

    1. He might be the best among the Democratic candidates, not because his policies are reasonable, but because they are so unreasonable: we wouldn’t get anything passed or implemented.

  16. It appears that the DNC has sicced the MSM on Sanders again, along with Uncle Joe and Mayor Tony.

  17. I don’t believe Sanders has a sexist bone in his body; If ever given the power to, he would crush everybody beneath his hobnailed boot, without regard to sex. Women would impartially go to the same camps as men.

    1. “No country needs more than one type of death camp.”

  18. “there’s no need to invent a fake sexism narrative.” I do not beg to differ. Actually, I hate to differ in this case, but I think there is a “need” to invent something that will resonate with Democrat voters in a way that those other things you mentioned will not.
    Just as Clinton tried last time, Warren is trying this time to get something to stick on Bernie to take him out. The last time that required a slough of underhanded and even illegal tactics. I’m not sure Warren and her staff have the stomach to do all that.

  19. he’s called open borders a “right-wing Koch brothers proposal” and opposes it because he perceives that high levels of immigration would threaten his Medicare for All schemes

    And in what way is either of those statements incorrect?

    1. Democratic politics is a fight between socialists with a commitment to enslave us with policies that will destroy us and the ruling reptiles whose only commitment is to enslave us.

      1. Well, again, in what way is this particular statement incorrect?

        It’s objectively true that many right wing think tanks and the Koch brothers favor open borders.

        It’s also objectively true that high levels of low-skill immigration would threaten Medicare for All and other entitlement programs.

  20. I think The Hair is slowly getting red pilled by his media coverage beat.

    The more you look at the media, the more it’s inescapably clear they are the #EnemyOfThePeople.

  21. “Warren and Sanders are both stridently progressive, and support far-reaching legislation that would vastly expand the federal government and grow the deficit, ”

    So they suck in equal measure.

    This entire article could have consisted of just that, and saved me time from reading pablum.

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