It was the “awkward” chat seen around the world — or, at least, seen by everyone watching Tuesday night’s Democratic primary debate.
And audio obtained by debate host CNN now shows what it was all about: Sen. Elizabeth Warren went up to Sen. Bernie Sanders after the debate and said he’d called her a “liar” over their disagreement about a private meeting in 2018.
Sanders vigorously denies this, but the issue came up during the debate when both senators were asked about it.
“Anybody knows me knows that it’s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman cannot be president of the United States,” Sanders, 78, said during the 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.”
Asked about it on stage Tuesday, Warren, 70, reiterated Sanders had indeed said a woman couldn’t win but she “disagreed” with him. She then pivoted to touting the election viability of herself and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the only other woman at the debate.
After the debate, Warren went up to Sanders for a stony-faced discussion that was captured by the TV cameras, though there was not any initial audio. CNN, which hosted the debate with The Des Moines Register, later found the audio of what they said.
“I think you called me a liar on national TV,” Warren told Sanders after she bypassed his offered handshake.
“What?” Sanders replied.
“I think you called me a liar on national TV,” Warren said again.
“You know, let’s not do it right now,” Sanders responded. “If you want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion.”
Warren then told Sanders, “Anytime,” and Sanders, sounding somewhat agitated, replied, “You called me a liar. You told me — all right, let’s not do it now.” He then turned and walked away.
Long-shot billionaire candidate Tom Steyer walked into the middle of the terse exchange when he went to go shake Sanders’ hand. He later said the conversation between Sanders and Warren was “one of those awkward moments where I felt like, you know, I need to move on as fast as possible.”
The video of the candidates’ exchange was widely shared on social media, but the audio wasn’t clear when the clip first aired and audiences didn’t know what Warren and Sanders were talking about. Steyer insisted he wasn’t listening.
The Sanders-Warren face-off followed a Politico report over the weekend that the Sanders campaign had issued talking points to volunteers instructing them to tell voters that people who support Warren are “highly educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what” and that “she’s bringing no new bases into the Democratic Party.”
Warren said that she was “disappointed” Sanders would send volunteers to “trash” her, while Politico further reported that the Sanders campaign didn’t “challenge the authenticity” of the script but declined to comment on the story.
Tuesday’s debate was the last one before the Iowa caucus on Feb. 3, as the crowded Democratic field begins to dwindle before voting begins in the primaries.
Tensions between Warren and Sanders’ campaigns have been rising in the final weeks before voting. The two, longtime friends, share many progressive values and are seen as competing over similar groups of voters.
The Warren campaign has not commented; Sanders’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.