Sanders said to Warren he would “talk about it later,” Shakir told the Washington Post. But the Sanders campaign, which referred CNN to that description, would not comment any further. The Warren campaign has so far declined to address the content of the exchange.
The substance of Warren’s apparent frustration, and whether or not the two have subsequently spoken, remains a mystery. The scene was captured on live television, but the candidates’ microphones had been turned off. Sanders went to shake her hand, she did not take it, and then they had a brief back-and-forth. He appeared to put up his hands and walk away.
The odd interaction capped off a 48-hour period in which the two progressive presidential frontrunners, who have mostly gone through a year-long campaign without any public signs of discord, were suddenly put at odds over a Sanders campaign volunteer script questioning Warren’s ability to appeal to voters outside a “highly educated, more affluent” base.
And on Monday, Warren said Sanders told her during a private 2018 meeting that a woman could not win the presidency. Sanders has repeatedly denied having made any such comment while Warren has held firm in saying that he did — and that she “disagreed.”
The only witness within earshot of the post-debate conversation was fellow candidate Tom Steyer, who told reporters afterward that he did not hear what the two were discussing and — sensing what he described as an “awkward moment” — sought to get out of the way.
“I was just going up to say ‘good night Sen. Sanders’ and I felt like, OK, there’s something going on here,” Steyer said. “Good night, I’m out of here.”
Asked after the debate what Warren said Sanders as they left the stage, Sanders campaign co-chair Nina Turner told CNN, “I’m not sure what she said, but you can read the body language. Obviously their conversation was not pleasant.”
About an hour earlier, during the actual debate, Sanders and Warren both doubled down on their earlier accounts of the 2018 meeting. Pressed by the moderators, Warren called Sanders her “friend” and insisted she wasn’t there “to try to fight with Bernie,” before pivoting to the broader stigma surrounding women running for high office.
“This question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised and it’s time for us to attack it head-on,” Warren said. “I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people’s winning record. So, can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look at the men on this stage: Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women.”
Sanders, who had said he didn’t “want to waste a whole lot of time on this because (a fight between them) is what Donald Trump and maybe some of the media want,” vehemently denied questioning whether a woman could win the presidency.
“Anybody who knows me, knows that it’s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman could not be president to the United States,” he said. “Go to YouTube today. They have some video of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become president of the United States.”