Politics

Sanders Contradicts Culinary Union Rep on Harassment From His Supporters

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) on Tuesday contradicted a statement from the representative of Nevada's largest labor union by saying he's not sure his supporters attacked the union's leadership.

"There are people out there who want to divide the progressive movement. I am the strongest, perhaps, lifetime supporter of unions in the United States Congress," Sanders said at a CNN presidential town hall. "The idea that anybody who works with me would make a vicious attack against a union leader just because we disagree on an issue is incomprehensible to me and you know what? I'm just not sure that that's true."

Geoconda Argüello-Kline, the secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226, sent out a press release last week criticizing Sanders's supporters for the way they "viciously attacked the Culinary Union and working families" for not supporting Medicare for All.

"Our union believes that everyone has the right to good healthcare and that healthcare should be a right, not a privilege. We have already enacted a vision for what working people need—and it exists now," Argüello-Kline continued. "Workers should have the right to choose to keep the healthcare Culinary Union members have built, sacrificed for, and went on strike for 6 years, 4 months, and 10 days to protect."

After telling a supporter in the audience that he condemns anyone from his campaign making vicious personal attacks, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper pressed Sanders on his supporters verbally harassing the Culinary Union and its leadership online.

"I'm totally against online bullying and harassment, and I condemn anybody who claims to speak—you know, I have a hard time understanding, given my views, which everybody knows, how anybody who thinks they are supporting me would do some ugly and terrible thing," Sanders said.

Sanders said he doesn't want to be "overly paranoid" before talking about how bots could be behind the attacks, saying, "I saw some of those things."

The self-proclaimed democratic socialist has received scrutiny from several of his Democratic opponents, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), for the harsh treatment the union has received from his supporters.

"I've said before that we are all responsible for what our supporters do," Warren said in an interview with MSNBC's Ali Vitali. "And I think Bernie has a lot of questions to answer here. And I am particularly worried about what happened in the attacks on members of the culinary union, particularly on the women in leadership."