Sanders-Warren tension dominates final debate before Iowa caucuses

It was the tension between Senator Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that dominated the seventh Democratic debate Tuesday night, following a report that Sanders had told Warren in a 2018 meeting that a woman couldn’t win the presidency. 

The two candidates, who have been generally friendly up to this point and avoided criticizing each other, changed their tune on Tuesday, with just under three weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses. The two were caught on camera in a tense exchange after the debate, with Warren appearing to decline a handshake with Sanders. 

After much of the first hour of the seventh Democratic debate was dominated by foreign policy questions amid U.S. tensions with Iran, the two finally got a chance to talk about what seemed to be a brewing feud between them. On Monday, Warren said during a private meeting in 2018 about their shared goals for the U.S. economy and defeating President Trump in 2020, Sanders told her he didn’t think a woman could win the presidency. Sanders vehemently denied ever having made the statement. 

Standing on the debate stage, Sanders reiterated his denial: “As a matter of fact, I didn’t say it.” He added that he had even deferred to Warren in 2015, in case she wanted to run in 2016 and stepped into the race when she declined. He also pointed out that Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, had won 3 million more votes than Donald Trump. He asked rhetorically how anybody could believe a woman can’t win the presidency.

Warren was asked what her response was when she was told by Sanders a woman couldn’t win (a question that assumed that Warren’s version of events is true, rather than Sanders’). “I disagreed,” Warren replied, adding that “Bernie is my friend, and I’m not here to fight with Bernie.” 

Instead, she said, it’s time to tackle the question about whether a woman can be president “head-on,” and she pointed out that on the debate stage, the women on the stage had a better record of winning. 
“The men on this stage collectively have lost 10 elections,” Warren said. “The women on this stage haven’t lost any.” 

Tuesday’s debate stage was the smallest yet, with only six candidates meeting the qualifications: Biden, Sanders, Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer.

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UK debate. Johnson/Corbyn debate on BBC

UK debate. Johnson/Corbyn debate on BBC

Election set for next Thursday, December 12


  • pro-choice is a Tory majority or hung parliament
  • Tories are now totally united on Brexit
  • we have ample time to build a new free-trade partnership with the EU and other countries
  • not true to say there will be customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of UK
  • I believe in immigration for people of talent
  • Tories will invest massively in NHS
  • 150 billion pound investment will come into UK if Tories when


  • Labour will maintain close trade relationship with EU
  • impossible for UK to get quick trade deal with US
  • Johnson has not been straightforward on Brexit
  • UK needs an ambitious government on voters aside
  • NHS is at a crisis point


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Election debate: Conservatives criticised for renaming Twitter profile ‘factcheckUK’

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Social networking site Twitter has said the Conservative Party misled the public when it rebranded one of its Twitter accounts.

The @CCHQPress account – the Tory press office – was renamed “factcheckUK” for Tuesday’s live TV debate involving Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.

After the debate, the account reverted to its original branding.

Twitter said it would take “decisive corrective action” if a similar stunt was attempted again.

But the firm does not appear to have taken any action over this particular incident.

“Twitter is committed to facilitating healthy debate throughout the UK general election,” a spokesperson said.

“We have global rules in place that prohibit behaviour that can mislead people, including those with verified accounts. Any further attempts to mislead people by editing verified profile information – in a manner seen during the UK Election Debate – will result in decisive corrective action.”

The Tories were earlier criticised by genuine fact-checking agency Full Fact, which said in a statement: “It is inappropriate and misleading for the Conservative press office to rename their twitter account ‘factcheckUK’ during this debate.

“Please do not mistake it for an independent fact checking service such as FullFact, FactCheck or FactCheckNI.”

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly defended the rebranding.

He told BBC Newsnight: “The Twitter handle of the CCHQ press office remained CCHQPress, so it’s clear the nature of the site.”

Mr Cleverly added the decision to rebrand the account would have been made by the party’s digital team, which he said operated within his remit.

He said he was “absolutely comfortable” with the party “calling out when the Labour Party put what they know to be complete fabrications in the public domain”.

Reacting to the decision, the Labour Party tweeted: “The Conservatives’ laughable attempt to dupe those watching the #ITVDebate by renaming their twitter account shows you can’t trust a word they say.”

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, said the ploy was “straight out of Donald Trump or Putin’s playbook”, adding the Tories were “deliberately misleading the public”.


By Amol Rajan, BBC media editor

Twitter is a minority interest. Journalists are over-represented on this platform compared to other social media, creating a profound danger that they misinterpret what happens on Twitter as representative of the wider world.

Nevertheless, an important threshold has now been repeatedly breached by Britain’s party of government, and Twitter is the site where it happened.

It is perhaps arguable that, like the doctored video of Sir Keir Starmer a fortnight ago, the re-branding of CCHQ as a fact-checking service falls into the broad category known as satire.

But that is a stretch. The effect will have been to dupe many unknowing members of the public, who genuinely thought it was a fact-checking service when it gave opinions on Jeremy Corbyn.

This is not to patronise voters, who are wise; rather, it is to recognise that in a world of information overload, what cuts through are stunts.

Which is why, ironically, in CCHQ this morning there will be younger staff who chalk this up as a victory.

Journalists thus face a dilemma: call out disinformation, and you play to the worst of social media, distracting from questions of policy; but ignore it, and the truth recedes ever further from view.

Twitter has policies regarding deceptive behaviour on the platform. The company said it can remove an account’s “verified” status if the account owner is said to be “intentionally misleading people on Twitter by changing one’s display name or bio”.

Other users on the platform subsequently changed their display names to mock the move. Among them, writer Charlie Brooker, who tweeted: “We have always been at war with Eastasia”, a reference to George Orwell’s dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

This latest controversial move on social media comes less than a month after the Conservative Party was criticised for posting a “doctored” video involving Labour’s Sir Kier Starmer, in which the shadow Brexit secretary was made to look as if he met a question, posed by ITV’s Piers Morgan, with silence.

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly said the video, since taken down, was meant to be “light-hearted”. The party later posted an extended version of the interview.

Full Fact, which is a charity supported by donations from the likes of Google, described the incident as “irresponsible”.

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Top takeaways from Wednesday night’s Democratic primary debate

Grace Segers, Camilo Montoya-Galvez and Stefan Becket contributed to this report

“Go easy on me, kid”

Those were the first words heard from Democratic front runner Joe Biden on the Detroit debate stage — addressed to Kamala Harris as they were introduced Wednesday night. 

But few of his competitors went easy on Biden — not Harris, not Cory Booker, not Bill de Blasio, not Julian Castro. The former vice president faced a barrage of criticism for being too moderate — or simply wrong — on health care, civil rights, immigration, gender equality and criminal justice. 

Biden got in his share of blows too though, and seemed more prepared to respond aggressively, as he promised we would be before this debate. And Harris, who stood out in the first debate with her remarks about Biden’s civil rights record, was also singled out for criticism on the debate stage. 

Overall, it was a bruising debate heavy on criticism for the top candidates with occasional breaks from some of the candidates, who urged their Democratic colleagues to remember to keep their efforts focused on beating  President Trump next year. 

Here were some of the memorable moments: 

“The senator’s had several plans so far” 

Almost immediately, Biden and Harris tangled over the California senator’s recently released health care plan. While Tuesday night’s debate had the two most prominent proponents of “Medicare for All,” Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, it was Harris who represented single payer health care on Wednesday night’s stage, in opposition to the public option plan touted by Biden and other moderates.

But Harris’ plan is less pure than Warren’s or Sanders’, and she has faced some criticism for a lack of clarity on her plan. Biden was quick to press her on that. “The senator’s had several plans so far,” Biden said of Harris. “You can’t beat Trump with double talk,” he warned.  

There are some things that remain unclear about Harris’ plan, even Wednesday evening as she defended it. “There will be a public plan, under my plan for Medicare, and a private plan, under my plan for Medicare,” Harris said of her proposal, which would also take a decade to transition to single-payer. 

Biden also accused Harris of touting a plan that would cost $ 3 trillion (compared to his less expensive plan’s $ 750 billion price tag), eliminate employer-provided insurance and result in a tax hike for the middle class. 

Harris parried that Biden was “just simply inaccurate” and said that she’d bring health care to “all Americans” under a Medicare-for-All system, while his would leave 10 million uninsured. 

But Sen. Michael Bennet, another moderate, explicitly took Biden’s side on the issue, and attacked Harris as well as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, on single-payer health care, saying they would all “make illegal employer-based health insurance in this country and massively raise taxes on the middle class to the tune of $ 30 trillion.”

“Three million deportations”

The former vice president faced sharp criticism on deportations, too. Moderators, pointing out that the Obama administration had deported far more immigrants in its first two years than the Trump administration had, asked Biden whether he’d resume higher deportation rates. He responded, “Absolutely not.”  

Biden was also interrupted by hecklers who mocked him with chants of “three million deportations,” a reference to the estimated number of removals by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during President Obama’s eight years in office.

And Bill de Blasio prodded Biden more than once on how or whether he’d used his influence with Mr. Obama to stop the deportations. Biden responded by citing instead Mr. Obama’s efforts to help immigrants, citing his executive actions allowing some young undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. on renewable work and student visas. 

De Blasio hit him again with the same question about deportations, and Biden replied he wouldn’t disclose the private conversations he’d had with Mr. Obama.

Booker seized on that to accuse Biden of being eager to invoke his connection to the former president but declining to comment when it comes to the difficult topics.

“You can’t do it when it’s convenient and dodge it when it’s not,” Booker said, jabbing at Biden’s repeated mentions of Mr. Obama.

“You’re dipping into the Kool-aid and you don’t even know what flavor it is”

Biden attempted to go on the offensive on criminal justice against Booker, since Biden has been expecting for days that Booker would criticize him for the 1994 crime bill he wrote to expand criminal prosecutions on several fronts. The measure has in recent years been blamed by critics for overly harsh convictions and sentences that have unfairly targeted minorities. 

Biden hit Booker, the former mayor of Newark, New Jersey, with an accusation about the Newark Police Department engaging in stop-and-frisk. Booker quickly shot back, “You’re dipping into the Kool-aid and you don’t even know what flavor it is,” arguing that the police department he inherited came with a legacy of challenges.

Booker, who was one of the lead sponsors of the criminal justice legislation signed into law during the Trump administration, said he was “shocked” Biden wanted to compare records on criminal justice reform.

“Middle-ground solutions”

On climate change, too, Jay Inslee, said Biden’s proposals to combat the threat simply don’t go far enough.

“Middle-ground solutions like the vice president has proposed … are not going to save us,” Inslee said. “Too little, too late is too dangerous.”

Harris v. Gabbard

Harris, too was on the receiving end of some blistering criticism, not only for her health care plan, but also for her past as California’s top prosecutor.

Tulsi Gabbard said she was “deeply concerned” about Harris’ record. 

“Senator Harris, when you were in a position to make a difference and an impact in these people’s lives, you did not,” she charged as the audience applauded. “And worse yet, in the case of those who were on death row, innocent people, you actually blocked evidence from being revealed that would have freed them until you were forced to do so.”

“There is no excuse for that and the people who suffered under your reign as prosecutor owe — you owe them an apology,” Gabbard insisted.

Harris said she was proud of her record and fired back, “I think you can judge people by when they are under fire and it’s not about some fancy opinion on a stage but when they’re in the position to actually make a decision, what do they do.”

The next debate

The candidates meet again on the debate stage in September, and the field could still be quite large even though the threshold for entry will be higher. There are still two dozen candidates running in the Democratic primary, and even if the field were cut in half, the stage would still be crowded.

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Hong Kong’s government has postponed debate on the extradition bill to an unspecified time

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Labour's McGovern confirmed to have requested emergency Brexit debate

The request is now with the speaker’s office


Now that the request has been made, we could see a three-hour debate on the subject at any given time. McGovern’s request here comes with a potential vote to force May to rewrite her letter to the EU to include a longer extension option.

As mentioned earlier, it’s part of an effort of parliament to try and take control of Brexit proceedings from the government. Of note, there’s also talks now that we could see a re-table of the Benn-Cooper amendment last week (which failed) to debate on Brexit next steps and pave the way for indicative votes. Just something to take note of as well.

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