- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sen. Bernard Sanders came under fire Sunday from several of his rivals as the race for the party’s presidential nomination shifted to the West and the South, where candidates are vying for union voters and minority support, respectively.

The Vermont lawmaker was challenged by competitors on his health care record and criticized for a wave of harassing phone calls, threatening emails and disparaging tweets from self-proclaimed Sanders backers targeting union members ahead of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses.

Mr. Sanders said he did not know who among his supporters would make the kinds of threats being reported, but he said that type of rhetoric is not acceptable in his camp.

“We are living in a strange world on the internet … Anybody making personal attacks against anybody else in my name is not part of our movement,” Mr. Sanders told “PBS NewsHour.”

The response came after the Culinary Workers Union, which decided not to endorse a Democratic candidate, accused Sanders‘ supporters of “viciously” going after union members who’d expressed skepticism about the senator’s push for “Medicare for All.”



The union blamed Sanders supporters for profanity-laced phone calls and disparaging comments online targeting the group’s secretary-treasurer, Geoconda Arguello-Kline, over her Nicaraguan heritage, and social media comments accusing union spokesperson Bethany Khan of being paid off by members of the Democratic Party establishment.

Mr. Sanders‘ challengers jumped on the dustup, with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” Mr. Sanders should do more to distance himself from extremists and online trolls.

“If any of my supporters did that, I would disown them,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden also took a swing at the self-described socialist’s push for government-controlled health care, as Mr. Biden and other moderate candidates in the race have said getting rid of private options is not the best route for the party.

“He’s never gotten anything done,” Mr. Biden said, noting Mr. Sanders has been talking about universal health care for more than 30 years. “Nothing has happened.”

Mr. Sanders recently replaced Mr. Biden as the front-runner in national polls, according to the Real Clear Politics average.

Mr. Biden was expected to lead the field but finished outside the top three in Iowa and New Hampshire.

He is hoping to reclaim front-runner status as Southern contests come into play, including the Feb. 29 South Carolina primary.

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who was neck and neck with Mr. Sanders in both Iowa and New Hampshire, called the attacks on union members “disturbing.”

“I’ll leave it to Sen. Sanders to characterize what is going on with his own supporters,” Mr. Buttigieg told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

He noted the harassment was sparked by Mr. Sanders‘ desire to abolish private health care plans, pointing out a policy difference between him and the front-runner.

“Mine does not. It is a simple, clear and major difference,” he said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, who came out of New Hampshire with a strong showing in third place, told CNN she is concerned about a socialist being the party’s nominee.

“We need to keep the House and you do that by having a candidate that shares the views,” she said. “They want plans and not pipe dreams.”

The candidates will have a chance Wednesday to make their case to voters in Nevada during a primary debate, three days before the state’s Saturday caucuses.

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