Sanders Apologizes to Biden for Supporter’s Op-ed: ‘I’m Sorry’

January 21, 2020 Updated: January 21, 2020
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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) apologized to 2020 rival Joe Biden for a supporter’s op-ed that accused the former vice president of corruption.

Sanders, 78, said he didn’t agree with the op-ed, which was written by Zephyr Teachout, a law professor who lost a 2014 New York gubernatorial bid.

Teachout said that Biden “has a big corruption problem and it makes him a weak candidate,” citing a bankruptcy bill that Biden supported and how the candidate accepts money from healthcare and fossil fuel executives and companies.

Sanders told CBS he regretted Teachout’s message. “It is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way. And I’m sorry that that op-ed appeared,” Sanders said.

“If anyone knows me, what I believe is we need a serious debate in this country on issues. We don’t need to demonize people who may disagree with us,” Sanders added, appealing to his supporters to “engage in civil discourse.”

Biden responded on social media, writing: “Thanks for acknowledging this, Bernie. These kinds of attacks have no place in this primary.”

“Let’s all keep our focus on making Donald Trump a one-term president,” he added.

The day before Sanders apologized, his campaign circulated the op-ed to supporters.

The contention came after Sanders and his campaign criticized Biden over his comments on Social Security funding, circulating a video that showed Biden saying former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan was “correct” about the funding.

“We need to do something about Social Security and Medicare. That’s the only way you can find room to pay for it,” Biden said in 2018 (pdf) while speaking at the Brookings Institution.

Biden’s campaign has said he was being sarcastic and his next comments indicated support for Social Security and Medicare, though he said the programs “needs adjustments.”

“Now, I don’t know a whole lot of people in the top one-tenth of 1 percent or the top one percent who are relying on Social Security when they retire. I don’t know a lot of them. Maybe you guys do. So we need a pro-growth, progressive tax code that treats workers as job creators, as well, not just investors; that gets rid of unprotective loopholes like stepped-up basis; and it raises enough revenue to make sure that the Social Security and Medicare can stay, it still needs adjustments, but can stay; and pay for the things we all acknowledge will grow the country,” he said.

Past comments by Biden support the charge he wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare. “When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well,” he told the Senate in 1995. “I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veterans’ benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government. And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time.”

Campaigning over the weekend, Biden claimed that a “doctored video” was going around, pushed “by one of Bernie’s people.”

“It is simply a lie, that video that is going around,” Biden said. “And ask anybody in the press. It’s a flat lie. They’ve acknowledged that. This is a doctored tape. And I think it’s beneath him, and I’m looking for his campaign to come forward and disown it.”

Sanders responded on Sunday, telling CBS: “[Joe] is a decent person. He is a friend of mine. People like him. And we’re not going to make personal attacks on Joe Biden but I think the record shows that Joe’s history in the Senate and my history in Congress are very different.”

“I think it is important to know where a senator has come from and where his head is at. And Joe’s record on [Social Security] is a little different than mine,” Sanders added.

Biden told Vice on Monday, “Everybody’s figured out they just lied about my position.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber