Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has criticized the conduct of online supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, saying his rival for the Democratic nomination for president has ‘some accountability.’
Biden, in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press on Saturday, waded into a spat between Sanders supporters and leaders of The Culinary Union, a powerful labor group in Nevada that has been critical of the senator’s healthcare proposals.
‘He may not be responsible for it but he has some accountability,’ Biden said in the interview that will air on Sunday morning. ‘If any of my supporters did that, I’d disown them. Flat disown them. The stuff that was said online, the way they threatened these two women who are leaders in that Culinary Union. It is outrageous.’
Nevada holds the next nominating contest in the Democratic presidential primary.
Biden, in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press on Saturday, waded into a spat between Sanders supporters and leaders of The Culinary Union
Biden has criticized the conduct of online supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, saying his rival for the Democratic nomination for president has ‘some accountability’
Sanders speaks during a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday. The state will hold caucuses on February 22
Biden has watched his standing in opinion polls slide as Sanders has risen to secure front-runner status.
The Culinary Workers Union said supporters of Sanders ‘viciously’ attacked the organization via Twitter, text, voicemail and direct messaging after the union criticized the senator’s universal healthcare plan on Tuesday.
Sanders, in turn, called for an end to all online harassment, but stopped short of acknowledging that the attacks were coming from his supporters.
Instead, Sanders suggested in an interview on ‘PBS NewsHour’ on Thursday that the attacks might be coming from people posing as his supporters.
‘Harassment of all forms is unacceptable to me, and we urge supporters of all campaigns not to engage in bullying or ugly personal attacks,’ he said in a statement.
Sanders added: ‘Anybody making personal attacks against anybody else in my name is not part of our movement. We don’t want them. And I’m not so sure, to be honest with you, that they are necessarily part of our movement.’
Sanders won the most votes in Democratic nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire this month.
Leaders of the Culinary Workers Union are seen at a press conference on Thursday, where they announced they would not endorse a candidate in the Democratic primary. The union said that it received ‘vicious’ abuse from Sanders supporters over the decision
The next contests in the state-by-state battle to pick a candidate to face Republican President Donald Trump in November’s election are in Nevada on February 22 and South Carolina on February 29.
Sanders’ opponents have frequently criticized his legion of online supporters for engaging in attacks, including those aimed at female candidates such as his 2020 rival Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who defeated him for the 2016 Democratic nomination.
He previously urged his supporters to engage in civil discourse, but his backers have argued that they have been unfairly maligned.
The Nevada union, with outsized influence in a state heavily dependent on tourism, said on Thursday it would not endorse a presidential candidate, but warned its members that Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal, which would replace private health insurance with a government-run program, could put their hard-won union health coverage at risk.
The Culinary Union, a 60,000-member group made up of housekeepers, bartenders, porters and others who work in the casino resorts, is considered one of the more influential forces in Democratic politics in the state. Democratic candidates have been aggressive in courting the group’s support.
Nationally, many unions have stayed on the sidelines in the primary, wary of lining up behind a candidate in the absence of a clear front-runner.
Biden accused sanders of failing to rein in his supporters. Pictured: Sanders addresses his supporters at a massive rally in Queens in October
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, left, embraces Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., right, watches during the last debate
Compounding the anxiety is bad blood over 2016, when several unions endorsed Hillary Clinton early in the Democratic presidential contest only to see Bernie Sanders surge and hear complaints from members.
The Culinary Union sat out the 2016 Democratic primary after a divisive endorsement eight years earlier undermined its image as a well-oiled political machine.
With Unite Here’s International Union deciding to stay neutral, the Las Vegas-based Culinary Union, its most closely aligned local, may follow its lead and sit out again. D. Taylor, the international president of Unite Here, is the former head of the Culinary Union and is still a fixture at the Las Vegas local’s events.
In 2008, the Culinary Union waited until 10 days before the Nevada caucuses to announce it was backing Barack Obama over Clinton. The decision was a boon to Obama, but it caused division among the union’s ranks and had a muted impact on the vote. Clinton won the popular vote in the state and had a strong showing at the at-large caucus sites dominated by Culinary members working on the Las Vegas Strip.
The leadership of the international union made the decision Tuesday during a meeting in Atlanta, according to spokeswoman Annemarie Strassel.
In a statement, Unite Here said, ‘Any local endorsing in the primary will be weighing the candidates´ positions on the key economic justice issues for our Union, such as supporting the right to organize unions, immigration reform, criminal justice reform and reining in the price of healthcare.’
The union’s decision to stay out likely reflects strong divisions within its ranks for who is the best candidate. Unions now find themselves in a similar role to the broader Democratic electorate, still undecided between many options.
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 15, 2020
As evidence of that, one Unite Here affiliate issued its own endorsement Tuesday ahead of the international union’s statement. Unite Here Local 11 out of Southern California jointly endorsed Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, saying the two liberal candidates have a ‘track record of standing with Local 11 members in their fights against corporate power.’
It was not the first Unite Here affiliate to wade into the presidential race. The union´s New York affiliate, the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, issued an endorsement in June 2019 of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who later dropped out of the presidential race.
Without results from the first votes being cast, many unions and Democratic voters still seem to be weighing their options before aligning with a candidate.
‘There’s excitement about this election among the labor movement, and we’re taking a close look at all of the candidates and all of the plans and raising the bar really high,’ said Tim Schlittner, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO, which hasn’t made an endorsement and doesn’t know if it will.
The Service Employees International Union is also still holding its fire. ‘The overwhelming majority of SEIU members are still undecided about who will best address their demands that the next president move power away from corporations and back towards working people,’ its president, Mary Kay Henry, said. ‘Just like voters across the country, they want to hear who is going to fight to ensure all families, no matter the color of their skin or where they were born, can thrive.’
Eddie Vale, a Democratic operative who has long worked in the labor movement, said unions may be hesitating because of ‘an embarrassment of riches for labor.’ In contrast to past cycles, the Democratic contenders have gone out of their way to tout their friendliness to unions. Labor doesn’t ‘have to put all of their hopes and support into one candidate, and membership support is divided up between a lot of people, so the incentives push against endorsement,’ Vale said.
The exceptions have been the few international unions with long-standing ties to candidates who have endorsed, such as the International Association of Fire Fighters, which backed former Vice President Joe Biden, or the National Nurses United, a longtime supporter of Sanders’ that also endorsed him in 2016.