Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders noted Sunday that sexism is a problem for female candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination after two of the leading women in the field recently dropped their bids.
During an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” Sanders was asked if he thinks “sexism and other forms of bigotry remain hurdles for candidates appealing for not just the general electorate but for the Democratic votes.”
“The short answer is yes, I do,” Sanders replied. “I think women have obstacles placed in front of them that men do not have.”
Sanders also said that the country has made progress in the last half century in terms of more women in politics.
“On the other hand, we have made progress in the last 40, 50 years in terms of the number of women who are now in the Congress. You can remember it wasn’t so many years ago – few decades ago – that Barbara Mikulski of Maryland was the only woman in the United States Senate, and we have made some progress,” the Vermont senator said. “But the day has got to come sooner and later that women can see themselves equally represented in Congress – half or more members of Congress, president of the United States, leaders of companies all over this country.”
“We have got to get rid of all of the vestiges of sexism that exist in this country, which is still pretty rampant,” Sanders added.
The comments from Sanders come three days after Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who was once considered a front-runner in the race, dropped her bid for the party’s nomination following a disappointing finish in primary contests on Super Tuesday. Earlier that week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota dropped out of the race as well.
Their departures left just one woman – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii – in a race that once saw six women vying for the nomination and raised questions about the challenges women face when they campaign for an office that has yet to be held by someone other than a man.
Warren herself commented on the issue when she publicly dropped out on Thursday outside her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“You know, that is the trap question for women,” she said after a reporter asked what role gender played in her campaign. “If you say, ‘Yeah – there was sexism in this race,’ everyone says, ‘Whiner.’ And if you say, ‘No, there was no sexism,’ about a bazillion women think, ‘What planet do you live on?’”
In January, after Sanders denied a report – and Warren’s confirmation of it – that he told her, in a private 2018 conversation about the upcoming presidential election, that he didn’t believe a woman could win, tensions between the two candidates boiled over in public.
Sanders, who is now locked in a tight race for the nomination with former Vice President Joe Biden, said Sunday that he would “love” to have support from Warren, who has not yet endorsed a candidate.
“Well, I’m not going to speculate. We would love to have Sen. Warren’s support and we would love to have the millions of people who supported Sen. Warren in her campaign on board,” he said.
Sanders faces an uphill battle to win Warren’s endorsement as their relationship has become complicated by the election, which pitted the two progressives against one another. After dropping out of the race, Warren deflected questions about her plans, but her public comments about Sanders and Biden Thursday night added to concerns among movement progressives that she could either endorse Biden or sit out of the contest.
CNN’s Maeve Reston, Gregory Krieg and Ryan Nobles contributed to this report.