KEY POINTS

  • Bernie Sanders emphasizes he never said a woman can't become U.S. president
  • Elizabeth Warren, however, confirms that Sanders 'disagreed' a woman can win as US president
  • Sanders disputes otherwise, saying 'Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016'

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) strongly denies ever having said a woman can't become a president of the United States, a remark some pundits say is clearly aimed at assuaging Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), his close friend and rival for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

Warren is the lone female candidate among the top four Democratic contenders for the presidential nomination. A new poll has Warren in a four-way race in Iowa. She's competitive against Sanders, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Sanders and Warren performed equally well as the top choice among female likely Democratic caucusgoers, said the poll by CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom. Sanders and Buttigieg were the top choice among men.

Three weeks before the pivotal Iowa Caucus and the longtime friends appear on the verge of tearing into each other due to persistent but unverified reports Sanders told Warren a woman can't win the presidency during a private meeting back in December 2018. Warren is said to have pushed back strongly against Sanders' comments, according to Warren's and Sanders' staff who were at the meeting as cited by CNN.

In this meeting at Warren's home, the two agreed to remain civil and avoid attacking one another so as not to hurt the progressive movement should they both run for the party's nomination. Warren then pointed out the two main reasons she'd make a strong candidate: she'll earn broad support from female voters and she can make a robust argument about the economy.

Sanders is said to have disagreed, saying he doesn't believe a woman could win the presidency in 2020. Warren responded to Sander by asserting a woman could win. Sanders also reportedly vented his frustration at the Democrats' increasing focus on identity politics, according to sources.

Sanders has since denied this version of his meeting with Warren.

"It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn't win," said Sanders in a statement to CNN.

"It's sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren't in the room are lying about what happened. What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016."

Warren, however, confirmed the rumores in a statement Monday. The senator shared that during a two-hour meeting discussing their plans to run for presidency and their hopes of defeating Trump, Sanders made the remark. 

"Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed," Warren said.

"I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry."

This feud just adds another storyline to the heated Democrat presidential race.

Liberal Bernie Sanders, former vice president Joe Biden and progressive Elizabeth Warren are vying to challenge Donald Trump for White House in 2020 Liberal Bernie Sanders, former vice president Joe Biden and progressive Elizabeth Warren are vying to challenge Donald Trump for White House in 2020 Photo: AFP / SAUL LOEB