Bernie’s excuse for calling Hillary “unqualified” to be president doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Here is a timeline of how the personal attack developed and the shoddy reporting that Bernie and his campaign relied on to rationalize it.
It began with Bernie’s interview with the New York Daily News Editorial Board, where he struggled to provide specifics on how he would break up big banks and enact his agenda.
Before Hillary ever responded to the interview, the media were raising concerns about Bernie’s answers to questions on issues that have been centerpieces of his campaign.
When asked whether or not the Fed has the power to regulate Wall Street, for example, Bernie’s response was, “Well, I don’t know.”
These are just a few of the headlines that circulated after the interview:
- Jonathan Capehart at the Washington Post: “9 Things Bernie Sanders Should’ve Known About but Didn’t in That Daily News Interview.”
- Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post: “This New York Daily News Interview Was Pretty Close to a Disaster for Bernie Sanders.”
- David A. Graham at The Atlantic: “How Much Does Bernie Sanders Know About Policy?“
- Caitlin Cruz at Talking Points Memo: “Bernie Sanders Struggles to Explain How He Would Break up the Banks.”
When MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked Hillary about the interview on Morning Joe, Hillary pointedly refused to say Bernie was unqualified. Instead she focused on his apparent unpreparedness in light of the Daily News interview.
“I think he hadn’t done his homework and he’d been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn’t really studied or understood,” Hillary said, “and that does raise a lot of questions.”
According to Scarborough:
I tried to get Hillary Clinton four times — three or four times to say that Bernie Sanders was unqualified to be president of the United States and just like my interview with Rick Santorum, I start asking a question, I keep going being I get an answer or give up and after three or four attempts with Secretary Clinton I gave up because she was not going to say the words he is unqualified to be president of the United States.
On the evening of the Wisconsin primary, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reported that the Clinton campaign’s new strategy was to “disqualify” Bernie. It was an unattributed assertion and there was never any official campaign release or statement to verify it. The comment certainly did not come from Hillary.
The next day, CNN ran a Zeleny article with the headline “Clinton Plan: Defeat Sanders, then unify Democratic party.” The piece opened with this quote:
“Hillary Clinton’s campaign is taking new steps to try and disqualify Bernie Sanders in the eyes of Democratic voters, hoping to extinguish the argument that he is an electable alternative for the party’s presidential nomination.”
But, again, neither Hillary nor her campaign called Bernie “unqualified” and the CNN story does not provide any evidence of it.
The Washington Post also ran a misleading headline on Hillary’s interview with Joe Scarborough titled “Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president.” Once again, the content of the Post story offered no support for the headline’s contention.
These media reports were the basis for Bernie’s attack in Philadelphia, where he said the following:
“She has been saying lately that she thinks that I am, quote unquote, not qualified to be president.”
The “she has been saying” line is a complete fabrication.
Bernie’s campaign manager Jeff Weaver referenced the Washington Post article to justify Bernie’s remarks.
Weaver also alluded to the Morning Joe segment, but as Scarborough himself insisted, that interview only proves that Hillary was given multiple chances to say Bernie is unqualified, but refused.
Furthermore, BNR’s Melissa McEwan points out that there is a world of difference between “disqualify” and “unqualified.”
Bernie’s entire premise for attacking Hillary as unqualified is based on falsehoods. Hillary’s campaign never called him unqualified. Nor did Hillary. Some media outlets have failed to adhere to the facts.
Credit to the Washington Post’s fact-checker for this: Sanders’s incorrect claim that Clinton called him ‘not qualified’ for the presidency.
A deplorable episode from start to finish.
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)