Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) on Friday said the Washington Post report about Russian attempts to boost his 2020 presidential campaign was released to harm his campaign ahead of the Nevada caucuses.
"How do you think it came out now if you had the briefing a month ago?" a reporter asked Sanders as he was walking up to a jet in Bakersfield, Calif.
"I'll let you guess about one day before the Nevada caucus," Sanders said. "Why do you think it came out? It was the Washington Post? Good friends."
The Sanders campaign in the past has complained about the Washington Post being owned by Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world and a frequent target of Sanders's anti-billionaire rhetoric, and the candidate has alleged the Post‘s campaign coverage is biased against him.
The Post told the Washington Free Beacon Friday that it did not time its report to harm Sanders and reiterated editor Marty Baron's guarantee that Bezos has no influence over the newspaper's coverage.
"As Marty Baron has stated publicly numerous times, the newsroom operates with complete editorial independence and Jeff is not involved in news coverage," said Shani George, the Post‘s communications director.
"We report news when we learn it," said Kristine Coratti Kelly, the paper's vice president of communications.
Vox reported last year that Bezos asked fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg if he would run for president, several months before Bloomberg announced his candidacy.
It is unclear if "good friends" is a reference to Bezos and Bloomberg or to others, and the Sanders campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Sanders and Bloomberg sparred during Wednesday's debate over the value of capitalism, with Sanders denouncing the power of billionaires and Bloomberg saying "communism" had failed.
Sanders attacked the Post last year, alleging its reporters are biased against him because Bezos is the newspaper's owner. From a USA Today report:
"Anybody here know how much Amazon paid in taxes last year?"
"Nothing," shouted back the audience.
"I talk about that all of the time, and then I wonder why the Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon, doesn't write particularly good articles about me. I don't know why, but I guess maybe there's a connection," said Sanders, to laughter from the audience.
Sanders on Friday denounced any Russian interference into his campaign.
"Here's the message to Russia: Stay out of American elections," the senator said. "They try to divide us up—that's what they did in 2016, and that is the ugliest thing that they are doing. They are trying to cause chaos, they are trying to cause hatred in America."