Bernie Sanders claimed he knew nothing about claims of sexual harassment from staffers on his 2016 presidential run, saying he was too busy crisscrossing the country and leading campaign rallies.
The Vermont Senator has come under criticism after a report from the New York Times that close to a dozen female staffers on his campaign came forward to said they were sexually harassed and their superiors did not respond appropriately. The staffers described a toxic atmosphere where harassment was rampant and often went unpunished.
In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Sanders said he was not aware of the sexual harassment claims.
“I was a little bit busy running around the country, trying to make the case,” Sanders said.
He went on to admit faults of running a large campaign, taking responsibility for the breakdown that allowed sexual harassment claims to go unanswered.
“I am not going to sit here and tell you that we did everything right in terms of human resources, in terms of addressing the needs that I am hearing from now that women felt disrespected, that there was sexual harassment, which was not dealt with as effectively as possible,” Sanders said, adding that his recent Senate re-election campaign had new policies and training programs in place for staffers.
The allegations of sexual harassment come at a critical time for Sanders, who is still deciding whether to run for president again in 2020. Sanders has been among the leaders in early 2020 Democratic primary polls, but the sexual harassment allegations could make him vulnerable against what looks to be a strong and deep field of contenders. Already, fellow progressive Elizabeth Warren has announced an exploratory committee and is expected to announce a final decision in the coming weeks.
Bernie Sanders campaign alumni want to address the sexual harassment they say took place in 2016 as he mulls another presidential run https://t.co/PTeSzFCbWw
— Politics Insider (@Politicsinsider) January 2, 2019
As Slate noted in its early analysis of the 2020 Democratic field, Sanders would no longer benefit from being the de facto “anyone but Hillary” candidate, with a much deeper field and no indication from Clinton that she is planning a third run for president.
But there are others who say that Sanders is better to address the issue now than for it to come out during a potential presidential campaign, allowing him to move beyond the issue before there is any voting at stake.
Bernie Sanders added that if he were to run for president in 2020, he would “do better next time.” He has still not announced when he may be making a decision on whether to run again.