Billionaire businessman Tom Steyer joked about his inadvertent role in the newly revealed tense exchange between his fellow Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont following Tuesday’s Democratic debate.
“Just want to say hi, America,” Steyer tweeted Wednesday, referencing his unfortunate timing when he sought to chat with Sanders after the CNN/Des Moines Register debate — and stumbled upon the senators each accusing the other of calling them a liar.
“I think you called me a liar on national TV,” Warren can be heard saying in new CNN audio from after the debate.
“What?” Sanders responded.
“I think you called me a liar on national TV,” she repeated, at which point Steyer can be seen putting his hand on Sanders’ shoulder.
“You know, let’s not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion,” Sanders said, to which Warren replied, “Anytime.”
“You called me a liar,” Sanders continued. “You told me — all right, let’s not do it now.”
After the two then parted, Steyer — who had been standing behind them and looking alternately at each of them — can be heard saying, “I don’t want to get in the middle. I just want to say hi, Bernie.”
Sanders replied, “Yeah, good, OK.”
Steyer then said to a departing Sanders, “It was a treat to see you.”
The tension between the two top-tier candidates has been simmering since earlier this week. In a CNN story published Monday, four sources said Sanders had told Warren during a private 2018 meeting about the 2020 campaign that a woman could not win.
Later on Monday, Warren said Sanders had told her at the meeting that a woman couldn’t win. Sanders has repeatedly denied making the comment, while Warren has held firm in saying that he did — and that she disagreed with his assessment.
The audio recording of the encounter expands on Steyer’s account of the exchange from Tuesday night.
“I was just going up to say, ‘Good night, Senator Sanders’ and I felt like, OK, there’s something going on here. Good night, I’m out of here,” Steyer told CNN’s Anderson Cooper following the debate.
“I really wasn’t listening. They were talking about getting together or something,” Steyer said. “I really didn’t listen. I really — it was one of those awkward moments where I felt like, you know, I need to move on as fast as possible.”
He added, “My goal was simply to say good night to two people who I respect. The last thing I wanted to do was get between the two of them and listen in. That was not my goal and I didn’t do it.”