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Democrats try to stop Sanders' momentum in fiery debate

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Democratic rivals attack Bernie Sanders on debate stage 13:31

Six Democratic candidates on the debate stage tried to stop the momentum of the seventh, frontrunner Bernie Sanders, hitting him hard on the cost of his proposals, his record on guns and his recent comments about Fidel Castro on "60 Minutes." Even Sanders joked about the attacks, noting, "I'm hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight. I wonder why."

But almost no candidate was unscathed in the fiery Democratic debate, which took place just four days before the pivotal South Carolina primary and a week ahead of Super Tuesday.

Michael Bloomberg took fire about his record as mayor of New York City, the women who signed nondisclosure agreements at his company, and his past support for Republicans.

Pete Buttigieg was again asked about his billionaire backers and Joe Biden went after Tom Steyer — as Steyer has been creeping up in the polls in South Carolina.

Amid the sharp jabs and fighting, Amy Klobuchar warned "if we spend the next four months tearing our party apart, we're going to watch Donald Trump spend the next four years tearing our country apart."

Foreign policy was the most discussed topic in this debate, with over 25 minutes dedicated to it. Electability was discussed for over 22 minutes, followed by healthcare at 16 minutes and gun control at 7 minutes. 

The question for Biden will be whether he can hold on to his now-slim lead in South Carolina, having seen it shrink from 28 points at its high point in the fall. 

According to the CBS News Battleground Tracker on February 23, Steyer has rocketed to third place in the state with 18%, followed by Warren with 12%. 

Pete Buttigieg, who finished with the most delegates in Iowa and second in New Hampshire, is also hoping to place high here after finishing third in Nevada. But he was polling fifth in the state attracting just 10% support. 

CBS News Democratic debate — Charleston, South Carolina
Democratic presidential candidates at the February 25, 2020, debate in Charleston, South Carolina. Getty

Warren says progressives have "exactly one chance" to make change happen

Elizabeth Warren "feels good" about Democratic debate performance in South Carolina 05:46

Warren made her case for why she should be the progressive candidate to win the Democratic presidential nomination over Sanders, saying she has a proven track record of enacting change.

"Progressives are going to get exactly one chance to make transformative change," Warren said in an interview on CBSN following the tenth Democratic debate. "And that means we better have a leader who actually knows how to get in the fight and how to make change happen. That's something I have done."

Warren cited her work spearheading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and fighting Wall Street, and said the policy proposals she has put forth across the presidential campaign are not only popular among Democrats, but also Independents and Republicans.
"That's how we get elected down ballot and it's how we govern. We start with the things, the good progressive things, that most of America actually wants to see," she said.

Read more of Warren's spin room interview here.

By Melissa Quinn

"I was humbled by the awareness that there were seven white folk up there, talking about racial justice," Buttigieg says in spin room

Pete Buttigieg talks about his debate performance 07:54

Buttigieg joined a CBSN spin room panel to discuss his debate performance and his outreach to black and Latino voters. 


FACT CHECK: Sanders says U.S. has more people in jail than China because of drug-related incarceration

CLAIM: U.S. has more people incarcerated than any country, including China
Sanders: "We have a criminal justice system today that is not only broken, it is racist, got more people in jail than any other country earth, including China. 
"One of the reasons for that is a horrific war on drugs. So, I do believe that on day one we will change the Federal Controlled Substance Act, which if you can believe it, now equates heroin with marijuana. That's insane. We are going to take marijuana out of that and effectively legalize marijuana in every state in the country. 
What we also are going to do is move to expunge the records of those people arrested for possession of marijuana, and I'll tell you what else we are going to do.  We are going to provide help to the African-American Latino Native American community start businesses to sell legal marijuana rather than let a few corporations control the legalized marijuana market."

FACT CHECK: Partly true, partly not provable.
Marijuana and heroin: Both heroin and marijuana are considered Schedule I controlled substances by the DEA, meaning that they are currently accepted for medical use and have a high potential for abuse.
The Drug Policy Alliance reports that in 2018, 663,367 people were arrested for a marijuana law violation. And 46.9% of those arrested for drug law violations were Black or Latino, although they only make up 31.5% of the U.S. population.
China incarceration: There is no way to be certain about the veracity of this claim. The Prison Policy Initiative did a study, which found that 70% of convictions result in confinement — far more than other developed nations with comparable crime rates. It also found that the U.S. incarceration rate is about six times higher than the next NATO country, the U.K. 
The World Prison Brief found that the U.S. does have more inmates than China, which reportedly has 1.65 million inmates, plus unknown numbers in pre-trial detention and other forms of detention, based on information available from September 2018.

—  Clare Hymes


FACT CHECK: Biden says Obama administration asked Mitch McConnell to join them in pointing out Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He said no.

CLAIM: Joe Biden said the Obama administration asked Mitch McConnell to join them in pointing out Russian meddling in the 2016 election. McConnell said no.

Biden: "This man (Trump) stood before the whole world, turned to the Russian leader and said, 'Why in God's name would this man ever interfere in our election?' Give me a break. Seventeen intelligence agents said he did. When we got the information, we went to the committee in the Senate that's responsible for knowing these issues and dealing with them. We went to Mitch McConnell and said join us and point out what is happening here. He said "No, we want no part in it." 


In September of 2016, the Washington Post reported, Obama administration officials presented Congress with intelligence that showed Russia's role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking Democratic National Committee emails. And they argued for a united bipartisan front against the threat posed by Russia's meddling in the U.S. presidential election. 
The Post reported that the administration debated for months about how to respond to the alleged Russian hacking, worried both about escalating tensions with Russia and about being accused of trying to unfairly help Hillary Clinton's campaign.
McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and again in December 2016, according to the Post, and after the election, when the CIA briefed members of Congress of their assessment that Russia had intervened in the election to help Mr.  Trump win the presidency, more than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system. The Senate majority leader told the administration he'd view any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly as an act of partisan politics. 

—  Shani Benezra


Debate Watchers nationwide: Sanders seen as candidate who made best case he could beat Trump


Debate viewers: Sanders impressed them the most of any candidate, followed closely by Biden and then Warren

Democratic voters who watched debate say Sanders impressed them most: CBS News poll 08:26

Bernie Sanders says "The truth is, nothing I am saying is radical"

Bernie Sanders on his debate performance in South Carolina 05:09

Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist, insisted to a CBS News panel after the debate in Charleston, South Carolina, that nothing he's proposing is radical. Sanders was the target of Democrats at Tuesday's debate as he gains momentum from his big win in Nevada heading into South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

Sanders, who wants to implement multi-trillion-dollar programs like Medicare for All and free child care, defended his stances on the debate stage and in speaking to moderators afterward. 

"The truth is, nothing I am saying is radical," Sanders told the CBS News panel post-debate. 

Sanders pointed to Canada to the north, nothing they have similar programs, and they're doing well. Sanders was pressed to further address comments he made to CBS News' "60 Minutes," when he criticized the communist Cuban regime but praised the success of a literacy program under Fidel Castro. 

Read more of Sanders' spin room interview here

By Kathryn Watson

FACT CHECK: Did Obama say Cuba had made progress on education?

CLAIM:  Sanders defended his comments on Fidel Castro by claiming that President Barack Obama acknowledged Cuba's progress on education.
SANDERS: "What Barack Obama said is they made great progress on education and health care.  That was Barack Obama."
FACT CHECK: Half true.
 Sanders was attacked by rivals for his comments on "60 Minutes" defending the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro. On "60 Minutes," he said, "You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?"
During the debate, he said President Obama, too, had praised Cuba's "great progress on education and health care." Mr. Obama, as he sought to reset of relations with the country, did acknowledge progress Cuba had made on education. 
But he did not directly credit Castro for the improvement, as Sanders had. In remarks at a joint press conference in Havana in 2016, Mr. Obama said, "The United States recognizes progress that Cuba has made as a nation, its enormous achievements in education and in health care." 
CLAIM: Biden said President Obama "did not in any way suggest that there was anything positive about the Cuban government."
At the aforementioned news conference in Havana, Mr. Obama said, "The United States recognizes progress that Cuba has made as a nation, its enormous achievements in education and in health care."
He did go on to say, "At the same time, as we do wherever we go around the world, I made it clear that the United States will continue to speak up on behalf of democracy, including the right of the Cuban people to decide their own future."

— Eleanor Watson


FACT CHECK: Bloomberg says Trump fired pandemics specialist 2 years ago and cut the CDC

CLAIM:  Bloomberg says President Trump fired the U.S. pandemics specialist and cut the CDC.

"You read about the virus. What's really happening here, the president fired the pandemic specialists in this country two years ago, so there's nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing. And he's defunded Centers for Disease Control, CDC, so we don't have the organization we need."
On the pandemics specialist — according to the Washington Post, "The top White House official responsible for leading the U.S. response in the event of a deadly pandemic has left the administration, and the global health security team he oversaw has been disbanded under a reorganization by national security adviser John Bolton." 
On CDC funding: President Trump has consistently requested funding decreases for the CDC in his annual budget requests, for 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. 
His most recent budget would cut CDC funding by 9% overall, the New York Times noted, though Congress may appropriate more than what the president proposes.

Rob Legare


Joe Biden says winning by "one point is enough" in South Carolina

"I'm gonna win South Carolina," Joe Biden says after 10th Democratic debate 04:15

Joe Biden had a disappointing showing in the first three contests of the Democratic primaries, but the former vice president expressed confidence Tuesday night after the South Carolina debate that he will win the state's primary. Biden spoke with CBS News' Major Garrett in the spin room after the explosive debate, hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.

"I'm going to win South Carolina," Biden said. He said that his margin of victory didn't matter, just that he succeeded.

"I think it's just important that I win. One point is enough, but I think I'm going to win by a lot more than that," Biden said. 

Read more of Major Garrett's interview with Joe Biden here

By Grace Segers

Candidates are asked about biggest misconception about them and their personal motto

Democratic candidates describe their motto 06:20

The final question posed to the candidates was about the biggest misconception people have about them and their personal motto.

Steyer said the greatest misconception is that he is defined and defines everything by money. The businessman said he writes a cross on his hand each day to remind himself to tell the truth and to do what's right. 

The idea that she's "boring" was Klobuchar's response about the biggest misconception about her "because I'm not." As far as the motto she lives by, Klobuchar said it's that politics is about improving people's lives. 

Biden said his motto is that when you're knocked down, you get back up, and that everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity. The former vice president cracked a joke about the greatest misconception about him is that "I have more hair than I think I do." 

Sticking to the theme he has pushed throughout his campaign, Sanders said the biggest misconception about him is that the ideas he's talking about are radical. "In one form or another they exist in countries all over the world," Sanders said. He attributed one of his favorite mottos to Nelson Mandela, that everything is impossible until it happens. 

Warren said one misconception about her is that she doesn't eat very much. For a motto, she looks to Matthew 25, which says that actions done for the "least of these," has been done unto Jesus. 

He's not passionate — that's what Buttigieg said is the biggest misconception about him, and the mistaken perception occurs when he strives to apply discipline to his passion. Buttigieg invoked biblical philosophy for the motto he lives by, that those who lead must first be servants. 

Bloomberg joked that the greatest misconception about him is "that I'm six feet tall." The diminutive former New York City mayor said he's trained a long time for this job, and when he gets it, he's going to get to work and not just talk.

By Kathryn Watson

FACT CHECK: Biden's role in stopping Ebola from spreading in the U.S.

Biden says he was part of ensuring Ebola pandemic didn't reach U.S. during Obama administration.
BIDEN: "What we did with Ebola — I was part of making sure that pandemic did not get to the United States, saved millions of lives. And what we did. We set up. I helped set up that office in the presidency.. The president's office on diseases that are pandemic diseases. We increased the budget of the CDC. We increased the NIH budget. The president today has wiped all that out. We did it. We stopped it."
FACT CHECK: Mostly True
It is accurate that in 2018, officials at the National Security Council who were leading the response to pandemics left the administration. Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer left in May of 2018. It was part of an NSC reorganization led by then-national security adviser John Bolton during the Trump administration.
Joe Biden said he led the Obama administration's response to the Ebola outbreak. The president appointed Ron Klain to coordinate the U.S. Ebola response. Klain had been Biden's Chief of Staff – so it is at least partially true that Biden was involved.
President Trump's budgets have called for CDC and FDA reductions. This year's budget request calls for a 9% cut.
In May of 2017, the former director of the CDC tweeted about the dangers of the proposed cuts, of 17%.
"Proposed CDC budget: unsafe at any level of enactment. Would increase illness, death, risks to Americans, and health care costs," Dr. Tom Frieden tweeted in May 2017.

Andy Triay 


FACT CHECK: Did Biden "beat the NRA twice?"

Assault weapon bans and background checks: Candidates on where they stand 09:27

CLAIM: Biden says he "beat the NRA twice."

BIDEN CLAIM: I beat the NRA twice. I got assault weapons banned. I got magazines that could not hold more than 10 rounds in them, and got them eliminated, except we had a thing called an election with hanging chads in Florida and it was not reauthorized. In addition to that, I passed the Brady Bill with waiting periods. I led that fight. 

Biden points to the Brady Bill and its background checks provision, as well as his efforts to get the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban passed and signed into law to illustrate how he "beat the NRA twice."

On the Brady Bill, Biden did sponsor the Senate legislation that changed the waiting period for background checks from seven to five days. While that measure didn't pass the Senate, the final version that reinstated the five-day waiting period while installing an instant background check system was passed into law on Nov. 30, 1993. 

Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Biden and Senator Diane Feinstein led the way on the assault weapons ban. Feinstein sponsored the 1994 bill in the Senate, and it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The 10-year ban restricted the manufacture, transfer, and possession of certain semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices, but it only applied to weapons manufactured after the date of the ban's enactment. It also banned high-capacity magazines capable of holding more than 10 bullets. Biden "fought hard to extend" the ban in 2004, but Congress did not reauthorize the ban, so it expired that year. The ban had loopholes, however, as the Washington Post pointed out. Gun companies were often able to get around banned gun elements by making slight modifications to weapons.

Shani Benezra


Candidates address Russian interference in 2020

Biden said that if elected, he would retaliate against Russia for interfering in the 2020 election.

"I would make them pay for it, and I'd make them pay for it economically," Biden said. "We in fact should be imposing sanctions on Russia now for their interference."

Steyer called Russian interference "an attack by a hostile foreign power on our democracy right now." He questioned why Republicans in Congress were not doing more to combat foreign interference.

By Grace Segers

FACT CHECK: Does it cost $500 billion to administer private health insurance plans?

CLAIM:  Sanders: What we need to do is to do what every other major country on earth does, guarantee health care to all people, not have thousands of separate insurance plans which are costing us some $500 billion a year to administer.
FACT CHECK:   Partly True, according to 2017 studies by The Lancet and the Annals of Internal Medicine, but the total of $500 billion under Medicare for All saved seems generous. The two estimates noted here estimate savings of $220 billion or $450 billion.
From The Lancet:   "Although health care expenditure per capita is higher in the USA than in any other country, more than 37 million Americans do not have health insurance, and 41 million more have inadequate access to care.

"Efforts are ongoing to repeal the Affordable Care Act which would exacerbate health-care inequities. By contrast, a universal system, such as that proposed in the Medicare for All Act, has the potential to transform the availability and efficiency of American health-care services. Taking into account both the costs of coverage expansion and the savings that would be achieved through the Medicare for All Act, we calculate that a single-payer, universal health-care system is likely to lead to a 13% savings in national health-care expenditure, equivalent to more than U.S. $450 billion annually (based on the value of the US$ in 2017). The entire system could be funded with less financial outlay than is incurred by employers and households paying for health-care premiums combined with existing government allocations. This shift to single-payer health care would provide the greatest relief to lower-income households.
From the Annals of Internal Medicine:   "The economic case for single-payer reform is compelling. Private insurers' overhead currently averages 12.4% versus 2.2% in traditional Medicare (2). Reducing overhead to Medicare's level would save approximately $220 billion this year"
Maggie Dore


Sanders defends controversial comments about Cuban literacy program

Sanders was asked to address comments he made just days earlier to CBS News' "60 Minutes," when he criticized the communist regime of Cuba but suggested Fidel Castro also had done some good things, like creating a literacy program. 

In that interview, Sanders said, "We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it's unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing?"

Sanders defended his comments Tuesday night, noting that it's possible to criticize authoritarianism, while highlighting successful aspects of a government. 

"Really? Literacy programs are bad?" Sanders said. 

"Authoritarianism of any stripe is bad," Sanders also said. "But that's different from saying governments occasionally do something good." 

As candidates began to talk over each other in responding to Sanders, Buttigieg took an opportunity to jump into the fray. Buttigieg said Democrats aren't going to win by relitigating the Cold War.

"We've got to be a lot smarter about this and look to the future," Buttigieg said. 

By Kathryn Watson

Biden calls Chinese President Xi Jinping a "thug"

After Bloomberg demurred on whether he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping was a dictator, Biden emphatically said that Xi was a "thug" and that he would never allow China to build infrastructure in the U.S.

"This is a guy who doesn't have a democratic — with a small "d" — bone in his body," Biden said. He condemned the concentration camps housing Uighurs and crackdowns on democratic protests in Hong Kong.

Warren noted that Bloomberg had business interests in China, and slammed him again for not yet releasing his tax returns.

By Grace Segers

FACT CHECK: Has Bloomberg supported GOP candidates?

Elizabeth Warren goes after Bloomberg's record of funding GOP Senate campaigns 01:42

CLAIM: Elizabeth Warren says Bloomberg has supported Republicans. 

"I mean that Mayor Bloomberg — let's think of it this way — we're here in Charleston and you know who is going to be in Charleston later this week, is Donald Trump. He's going to be here to raise money for his buddy Senator Lindsey Graham. Who funded Lindsey Graham's campaign for re-election last time- it was Mayor Bloomberg. And that's not the only right-wing Senator Mayor Bloomberg has funded.
In 2016, he dumped $12 million into the Pennsylvania Senate race to help re-elect an anti-choice right-wing Republican senator and I just want to say, the woman challenger was terrific. She lost by a single point. 
In 2012 he scooped in to try to defend another Republican senator against a women challenger —  that was me. It didn't work, but he tried hard."
According to the FEC, Bloomberg gave $250,000 to West Main Street Values Pac Inc on May 24, 2014. West Main Street Values Pac supported Lindsey Graham in 2014.
The New York Times noted that in 2012, Bloomberg "agreed to host a fund-raiser at his Upper East Side town house for the re-election campaign of Senator Scott P. Brown, a Republican, who is being challenged by a fiery consumer advocate, Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat who is also a professor at Harvard Law School." 
FEC data says that Bloomberg and Independence USA PAC spent at least $5,911,092.98 in support of Republican Senator Pat Toomey. Toomey beat Democrat Katie McGinty by 1.5% in 2016. There are also reports of ad buys in the Pennsylvania race, but cannot yet find how much the PAC spent on those ads.

Rob Legare


Candidates pressed on how they would respond to coronavirus

Candidates discuss coronavirus outbreak and containment 04:09

As the coronavirus outbreak threatens the U.S. and the Centers for Disease Control warned Americans they should prepare for significant disruptions in their normal lives, candidates were given a chance to answer how they would handle the global health crisis. 

Klobuchar said the answer is to have a treatment for Americans who have been exposed, using quarantines as necessary. She then took the opportunity to point Americans to "," where they can find the most current information. She added she'd work toward better relations with U.S. allies, and invest in education to train the next generation of scientists who can find cures for this and any future outbreaks.

Biden noted the Obama administration increased the budget of the CDC and National Institutes of Health. The Trump administration, he said, scaled that funding back. 

"What I would do immediately is restore the funding," Biden said. 

Sanders said the president has suggested the virus will end in two months, after the president claimed some people think the coronavirus will disappear with warmer weather. The problem is a global one, and requires global solutions, Sanders said.

By Kathryn Watson

"We are not winning in Afghanistan. We are not winning in the Middle East," Warren says

Moderator Norah O'Donnell asked Warren about her support for pulling combat troops out of the Middle East. Warren noted that all three of her brothers had served in the military, and said that she respected the sacrifices made by service members.

"We have a sacred responsibility to them, and that means to not use our military to solve problems that cannot be solved militarily," Warren said. "We are not winning in Afghanistan. We are not winning in the Middle East."

Warren also said that it was important to shore up the State Department and strengthen American diplomacy.

Buttigieg, the only military veteran on stage, said that it was important to strengthen the country's intelligence operation.

"The first thing that we've got to do is restore the credibility of the United States," Buttigieg said.

By Grace Segers

Sanders pushes ahead on legalizing marijuana, but isn't joined by other candidates

Bloomberg wants to go "very slowly" in decriminalizing pot 00:55

Klobuchar was given the first chance to address the issue of legalizing marijuana. 

"Well, it is realistic to want to legalize marijuana, I want to do that, too," Klobuchar said.

The Minnesota senator added there also needs to be funding for treatment, so there aren't "repeat customers."

Bloomberg said small amounts of marijuana possession shouldn't be criminalized. And legalization wouldn't be taken away from states that have already legalized the drug. But he admitted there isn't enough research on mairjuana to know how much damage marijuana does, particularly on young minds, so he isn't pushing for full legalization at this point. 

"Until we know the science, it's just nonsensical to push ahead," Bloomberg said. 

Sanders blasted the "horrific war on drugs," and said he would "effectively legalize" marijuana. He also said he wants to move to expunge the records of people with marijuana convictions. 

By Kathryn Watson

FACT CHECK: Is Buttigieg's campaign funded by billionaires?

CLAIM: Sanders has criticized Buttigieg for having a campaign funded by billionaires.
SANDERS' CLAIM:. "Pete has gotten funding from over 50 billionaires."
BUTTIGIEG'S CLAIM: Something that is untrue about my campaign, the idea that my campaign is funded by billionaires.
SANDERS: I didn't say that Pete.
BUTTIGIEG: "50 people, all right, in Charleston alone, just in Charleston, over 2,000 people have contributed to my campaign. That means the dollars that have come to my campaign just from Charleston is more than the dollars that have come from the fifty people that you mention." 
FACT CHECK: Sanders: Slightly exaggerated. Buttigieg has 40 billionaires supporting him. 
Buttigieg: Mostly true (not enough data available for part of check).
It is unclear whether the 2,000 individual donations from voters in Charleston have contributed more than the billionaires mentioned by Buttigieg tonight. A Forbes analysis found that there are 40 billionaires supporting Buttigieg, not 50. Thirteen of those donors have given exclusively to Buttigieg. 
According to Open Secrets, Buttigieg has raised a total of $81,490,817. Numbers released earlier this month by his campaign show he raised $6 million in the first month of this year, and an additional $11 million so far this month. Earlier this month, he announced 40,000 donors and $4 million raised since the Iowa caucuses.
According to, Buttigieg has received over $46 million in large contributions, meaning over $200 – making up 56.5% of his donations. Smaller contributions, less than $200, 43.39% of his fundraising – total nearly $36 million.
The Washington Post offers this handy comparison of the candidates' decidedly non-billionaire  January small-dollar fundraising (share of total raised in January that came from donors giving lower than $200):

  • Sanders: 53%
  • Warren: 48%
  • Klobuchar: 44%
  • Gabbard: 39%
  • Biden: 35%
  • Buttigieg: 29%

—  Clare Hymes


Bloomberg discusses controversial proposed tax on sugary drinks in New York

Bloomberg discussed his efforts to combat obesity while he was mayor of New York City, including an attempted tax on sugary drinks. Bloomberg said that it was important to support public health efforts.

"What's right for New York City isn't right for every other city, otherwise we'd have a naked cowboy in every city," Bloomberg joked, to muted laughter.

Bloomberg touted the ban on smoking in public areas while he was mayor, arguing that it had helped improve the health of people living in the city.

By Grace Segers

FACT CHECK: Sanders voted against Brady Bill five times

CBS News Democratic debate — Charleston, South Carolina
Democratic presidential hopefuls Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (L) and former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the tenth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina, on February 25, 2020. Getty

CLAIM: Biden: "We talk about progressive, let's talk about being progressive. Within walking distance to here is Mother Emanuel church. Nine people shot dead by a white supremacist. Bernie voted five times against the Brady Bill. And waited — a waiting period of 12 hours. I'm not saying he's responsible for the nine deaths but that man would not have been able to get that weapon with the waiting period would have been what I suggested until you are cleared."

DETAILS: Sanders did vote against certain provisions in the the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, or the "Brady Bill" while in the House and against the final version in November 1993. Politifact has a breakdown of his voting record from when Hillary Clinton made the same accusation.
According to Politifact, Sanders voted against the Brady bill in May 1991, November 1991, November 1993 twice in the same day, and against the final version later signed into law in 1993. He did support an instant background check amendment, however, and he voted against an amendment to end state waiting periods, Politifact noted. 

—  Shani Benezra 


FACT CHECK: Bloomberg's record on "stop-and-frisk"

Claim: Bloomberg: "We let it get out of control, and when I realized that, I cut it back by 95%. And I've apologized and asked for forgiveness. I've met with black leaders to try to get an understanding of how I can better position myself and what I should have done and what I should do next time."
The New York stop-and-frisk program pre-dates Michael Bloomberg's time in office. But as mayor of New York, he saw the number of stop and frisk stops rise – a federal judge eventually ordered stop and frisk to be scaled back, and Bloomberg appealed the ruling but also oversaw a decline in numbers.
He was mayor of New York between 2002 and 2013. According to court documents, the New York City Police Department ("NYPD") made 4.4 million stops between January 2004 and June 2012. Over 80% of these 4.4 million stops were of blacks or Hispanics.
The number of stops per year rose sharply from 314,000 in 2004 to a high of 686,000 in 2011. A federal judge ordered the practice scaled back in 2013 and according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, in 2013, there were fewer — some 192,000 stops. 

Andy Triay


Candidates asked how they'd tackle struggling schools in America

Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate In Charleston Ahead Of SC Primary
Democratic presidential candidates former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg arrives on stage for the Democratic presidential primary debate at the Charleston Gaillard Center on February 25, 2020, in Charleston, South Carolina. Seven candidates qualified for the debate, hosted by CBS News and Congressional Black Caucus Institute. Getty

Bloomberg was asked whether he would support the expansion of charter schools, as happened in New York City. The former New York City mayor said he's not sure charter schools are appropriate everywhere, but insisted the schools have worked where he is. Bloomberg noted he raised teacher salaries during his time as mayor.

"I value education — it is the only way to solve the poverty problem," Bloomberg said.

Warren said she would start addressing failing schools by selecting a secretary of education who believes in public schools and that it's time to get rid of high-stakes testing.

"We want to build a future in this country, we build a future by investing in our children," the Massachusetts senator said.

Sanders said his campaign is about changing American priorities — and taking money from billionaires to afford universal child care for American families. 

Buttigieg said the way to improve public education is to support public teachers, not just by investing in them financially, but in supporting them publicly.

By Kathryn Watson

"If I'm elected, NRA, I'm coming for you," Biden says to cheers

Assault weapon bans and background checks: Candidates on where they stand 09:27

Moderator Gayle King asked Biden why Americans should believe that he would be able to get gun control legislation passed through Congress.

"Because I'm the only one that ever got it done nationally," Biden said, to cheers. "If I'm elected, NRA, I'm coming for you." Biden also attacked Sanders for previously voting against gun control legislation.

Sanders noted that he was not the only person on stage who had a vote he regretted, slamming Biden for voting for the war in Iraq.

"Joe has voted for terrible trade agreements," Sanders said, to boos. "I have cast thousands of votes, including bad votes. That was a bad vote."

Warren raised the prospect of eliminating the filibuster, which allows senators to block certain legislation.

"The filibuster is giving a veto to the gun industry," Warren said. Buttigieg also expressed his support for eliminating the filibuster, and slammed Sanders for not supporting getting rid of the filibuster as well.

Biden challenged Klobuchar over whether she wrote legislation to close the so-called "boyfriend loophole," saying he had written the initial version of that legislation. Klobuchar argued she would be the best person to usher gun control legislation through Congress, since she represents a key Midwestern state.

By Grace Segers

FACT CHECK: Was Warren fired from a teaching job because she was pregnant?

Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate In Charleston Ahead Of SC Primary
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during the Democratic presidential primary debate at the Charleston Gaillard Center on February 25, 2020, in Charleston, South Carolina. Seven candidates qualified for the debate, hosted by CBS News and Congressional Black Caucus Institute. Getty

CLAIM: Warren: "When I was 21 years old I got my first job as a special education teacher. I loved that job. And at the end of the first year I was visibly pregnant. The principle wished me luck and gave my job to someone else. Pregnancy discrimination? You bet. But I was 21 years old, I didn't have a union to protect me and I didn't have any federal law on my side. So I packed my stuff and I went home."

FACT CHECK: Mostly True.
On the campaign trail, Elizabeth Warren often tells the story of how she was fired from her first teaching job in 1971 because she was pregnant. She has received criticism.

In an exclusive interview with CBS News in October, Warren said she stands by her characterizations of why she left the job. 

"All I know is I was 22 years old, I was 6 months pregnant, and the job that I had been promised for the next year was going to someone else. The principal said they were going to hire someone else for my job," she said. 

The "showed me the door" anecdote came up often on the campaign trail until recently. And now some outlets have found a 2007 interview Warren gave in which she presents the story in a different light. 

In an interview that year at the University of California, Berkeley, Warren gave the first known public account of her time at Riverdale. 

"I worked in a public school system with the children with disabilities. I did that for a year, and then that summer I didn't have the education courses, so I was on an 'emergency certificate,' it was called," Warren said in 2007. "I went back to graduate school and took a couple of courses in education and said, 'I don't think this is going to work out for me.' I was pregnant with my first baby, so I had a baby and stayed home for a couple of years."

Asked by CBS News why she told the story differently at Berkeley a decade ago, Warren said her life since her election to the Senate in 2012 caused her to "open up" about her past. "After becoming a public figure I opened up more about different pieces in my life and this was one of them. I wrote about it in my book when I became a U.S. Senator," she said in a statement from her campaign. 

 — Ellee Watson and Zak Hudak


FACT CHECK: Did Sanders want to primary Obama?

Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate In Charleston Ahead Of SC Primary
 Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during the Democratic presidential primary debate at the Charleston Gaillard Center on February 25, 2020, in Charleston, South Carolina. Seven candidates qualified for the debate, hosted by CBS News and Congressional Black Caucus Institute. Getty

Biden: "Being progressive, he (Sanders) thought Barack Obama — he wanted to primary — he wanted to primary Barack Obama."

FACT CHECK: Partly true. Sanders thought it would be a "good idea" for Mr. Obama to be primaried, but he did not plan to challenge Mr. Obama himself.

Sanders did bring up the possibility of a primary challenge to President Obama on the Thom Hartmann radio show on July 22, 2011, but he did not say that he himself would run.

"So my suggestion is, I think one of the reasons the president has been able to move so far to the right is that there is no primary opposition to him," Sanders said, "and I think it would do this country a good deal of service if people started thinking about candidates out there to begin contrasting what is a progressive agenda as opposed to what Obama is doing…Discouragement is not an option. I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition."

The idea was mentioned again in a recent article in The Atlantic, and Sanders was asked about the story at a February 24, 2020 CNN Town Hall. Here's that exchange: 

CUOMO: ..."The Atlantic" had the reporting. They published an initial report that said then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had to talk you into it.

SANDERS: No, not true at all. And call up Harry, and he will deny that. There's another one that involved Senator Leahy. He will deny it, as well. Just wasn't true. I did not give any consideration — you know, I'm the senator from a small state. And I did not give any consideration to running for president of the United States until 2015. And that was — I was looking around and I thought that the working families of this country needed a progressive voice. And the truth is, as you will recall, Chris, there was a lot of discussion about Elizabeth Warren running for president. And I waited. And Senator Warren said, no, she's not going to run. I did run. But the idea of running in 2012, absolutely untrue.

 — Maggie Dore 


Candidates suggest Democratic Party's future could be at risk if Sanders is nominee

O'Donnell asked Sanders to explain how he will pay for the trillions of dollars in new spending his programs, particularly "Medicare for All."

Sanders didn't spell out how a Sanders administration would pay for these programs, but rather, how Medicare for All would save lives. 

Klobuchar hit back at Sanders' expensive proposed programs.

"No, the math does not add up," the Minnesota moderate said. 

Buttigieg insisted that he wants to talk about math. "Let's talk about math," he said, as he and Sanders talked over each other.

Sanders, given a chance to interject, reiterated that Medicare for All would save money.

"This conversation shows a huge risk for the Democratic Party," Steyer said, noting the party has decided they will either choose a democratic socialist, or someone who has a long "history of being a Republican."

"If we go to one of those extremes, we take a terrible risk of reelecting Donald Trump," Steyer said.

Buttigieg broadened the conversation, suggesting having Sanders on the ballot would make Democrats lose races down ballot. 

"If you want to keep the House in Democratic hands you might want to check with the people who actually turned the House blue," Buttigieg said, referring to the many moderate Democrats who helped take back the House in 2018. 

By Kathryn Watson

Warren slams Bloomberg for supporting Republican Senate candidates

Warren attacks Bloomberg's record with women 03:38

Warren defended her previous comments that Bloomberg would be the "riskiest" candidate to nominate against Mr. Trump. She noted that he had poured millions into supporting Republican Senate candidates, such as Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania in 2016. Warren also pointed out that he had supported the Republican incumbent senator who Warren defeated in 2012, Scott Brown.

"It didn't work, but he tried hard," Warren said of Bloomberg's efforts to impede her election in 2012.

"I don't care how much money Mayor Bloomberg has. The core of the Democratic Party will never trust him. He has not earned their trust. I will," Warren continued.

Warren also raised concerns about how women were treated in Bloomberg's company.

Bloomberg said that his company had agreed to release women from nondisclosure agreements, after Warren had criticized him on that issue in the last debate.

"The trouble is, with this senator, enough is never enough," Bloomberg said about Warren. He said that he didn't want to "relitigate" past comments. Buttigieg jumped in: "If you get nominated, we'll be relitigating this all year."

Bloomberg also addressed an allegation that he had once told a pregnant woman in his company to "kill it."

"I never said it. Period. End of story," Bloomberg said about the alleged comments. "I'm sorry if she heard what she thought she heard."

By Grace Segers

Candidates have a chance to address racism in America, and specifically, "stop-and-frisk"

Pete Buttigieg on if stop-and-frisk policy was racist 01:37

Bloomberg claimed the practice of "stop and frisk" became less common while he was mayor, although that claim is an uncertain one. The practice, he acknowledged had gotten out of hand. 

Klobuchar, asked if the way Bloomberg implemented stop and frisk was racist, responded, "Yes." Now, there's a need to move forward, Klobuchar said.

The Minnesota senator specifically mentioned the need for sentencing reform and legislation to build on the bipartisan criminal justice legislation, the First Step Act passed during the Trump administration. 

Warren reiterated her comments that Bloomberg would be the most dangerous candidate on stage, accusing him of funding "right-wing" senators like GOP Senator Lindsey Graham.

Warren also said Bloomberg tried hard to stop a female Democratic candidate — her. He didn't succeed, she noted. 

Bloomberg said he has been "training for this job" since the day he stepped on the smoldering pile of the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. 

"All the sideshows that the senator wants to bring up have nothing to do with that," Bloomberg said. 

By Kathryn Watson

Biden is asked about slipping support among black voters

Moderator Gayle King asked Biden about polls showing that his support was slipping among black voters. Biden noted that a recent poll showed his support among black voters was still 15 percentage points above Sanders, which King said was correct.

"I've worked like the devil to earn the vote of the African-American community," Biden said. "I don't expect anything. I plan to earn the vote."

Biden refused to answer a question about whether he would drop out of the race if he lost South Carolina.

"I will win South Carolina," Biden asserted.

By Grace Segers

Biden brings up 2015 Charleston church shooting, hitting Sanders on his record

Biden, given an opportunity to jump into the conversation, noted that only blocks away is Emanuel AME Church, where in 2015 nine African-Americans were gunned down by a 21-year-old white supremacist. 

The former vice president said Sanders voted against versions of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act five times, which requires a multi-day waiting period for handgun purchases and background checks. Biden said that would have prevented the horrific shooting. 

"Let's talk about progressive, progressive is getting things done," Biden said, hitting Sanders on his record on gun violence legislation and other issues.

"I'm hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight, I wonder why," said Sanders, who is leading in recent national polls after his strong first-place finish in Nevada. 

By Kathryn Watson

Sanders strikes at Bloomberg first. Bloomberg responds "Russia is helping you get elected so you lose" to Trump

Bernie Sanders responds to Mike Bloomberg's dig about Russia 00:54

The first question of the night went to Sanders, who was asked how he would convince the American people that a democratic socialist could handle the economy better than Mr. Trump. Sanders argued that the economy is working for the wealthiest in the country, such as Bloomberg.

"The economy is doing really great for people like Mr. Bloomberg," Sanders said. Bloomberg hit back by referencing recent reports of Russian interference in 2020, including allegations that the Russians are trying to ensure Sanders' election.

"Russia is helping you get elected so you lose" to Mr. Trump, Bloomberg said. Sanders said he would stand up to Putin.

"Hey, Mr. Putin, if I'm president of the United States, trust me, you're not going to interfere in an American election," Sanders said.

Warren acknowledged that Sanders is the frontrunner, but said that he was running on progressive ideas, and "progressive ideas are popular ideas."

"Bernie and I agree on a lot of things, but I think I would make a better president than Bernie," Warren said, implying that Sanders was incapable of effecting change, arguing that she would "dig in, do the hard work, and actually get it done."

Buttigieg made a similar argument to Bloomberg, saying that the Russians were seeking to sow chaos in the election.

"They don't have a political party. They want chaos. And chaos is what is coming our way," Buttigieg said. He asked the audience to imagine the nastiness of a Trump versus Sanders competition.

By Grace Segers

CBS News president Susan Zirinsky welcomes attendees to the tenth 2020 Democratic debate

Susan Zirinsky welcomes attendees to the tenth 2020 Democratic debate 02:49

The issues resonating with South Carolina voters

The issues resonating with South Carolina voters 16:25

Joe Biden has long been looking at South Carolina as his firewall, but recent polling has shown his lead start to crumble. He will meet six other Democrats onstage Tuesday night in Charleston ahead of Saturday's primary. CBS News 2020 campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell, CBSN political reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns, Washington Post reporter Sean Sullivan and The State political reporter Maayan Schechter join CBSN's Elaine Quijano in Charleston to discuss.


Ayanna Pressley: "Women can win everywhere, including the Oval Office"

Warren surrogate Ayanna Pressley: "Women can win everywhere, including the Oval Office" 07:57

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, a key surrogate for Warren on the campaign trail, told CBSN that she believed Warren would be the "most effective president" and is the "unity candidate."

Pressley also addressed the rise of Sanders, saying that all progressives should support his promotion of certain ideas.

"Bernie is doing well, and that means that progressive values and ideas are doing well, and we celebrate and applaud and commend that. Elizabeth, I believe, will be our most effective president," Pressley said. She criticized commentators for "erasing" Warren's success, saying that Warren's campaign would "out-organize, outwork and outlast" others.

"There's certainly a higher bar, and a double standard," Pressley said about the impact of sexism on Warren's campaign.

By Grace Segers

Bloomberg partner on his past comments: "It was 30 years ago, get over it"

Poll: Joe Biden enters South Carolina debate with a slim lead over frontrunner Bernie Sanders 03:09

Diana Taylor, the longtime partner of Mike Bloomberg is weighing in on nondisclosure agreements that his opponents have seized upon to target him during the Democratic primary campaign. 

"Those NDAs were signed 30 years ago," Taylor said in an interview with CBS News after a "Women for Mike" event in Houston Monday night. "They have come up in every single solitary election he has ever been in. And in none of them was he accused of doing anything, saying something nasty to a woman. That is not who he is. Life has changed. I grew up in that world. It was a bro culture."

"It was 30 years ago. Get over it," Taylor said, in response to a question about what she would tell people who were concerned about the allegations against Bloomberg or his response at the debate. In a statement to CBS News, Erin McPike, a spokesperson for Taylor, said the comments reflected Taylor's personal view.

"Diana offered her personal view from her forty years working in finance, not the view of the campaign," McPike said.

By Adam Brewster

Bloomberg signals he will hit Sanders on gun control

In a video posted to Twitter, Bloomberg emphasized his support for putting gun control measures in place and said he hoped it came up at Tuesday's debate.

Bloomberg noted that gun control was not addressed in the Las Vegas debate last week, although it did get mentions from Joe Biden. The former mayor has long made gun control a huge priority, backing initiatives such as Everytown for Gun Safety.

"Hopefully I'm gonna get a chance to talk about that on the stage tonight. It's really one of the things we've got to worry about. 40,000 people are killed in America with guns every single year — we've just got to stop it," Bloomberg said in the video. 

Bloomberg's California communications director Michael Buckley said earlier Tuesday that Sanders' record on gun control was "pathetic," indicating Bloomberg may go after Sanders on the topic at the debate tonight.

By Grace Segers

CBS News debate moderators on what's at stake in Charleston

CBS News debate moderators on what's at stake in South Carolina 08:52

"CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King and "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell will co-moderate Tuesday night's Democratic debate in South Carolina. They'll be joined in questioning by "60 Minutes" correspondent Bill Whitaker, chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett and "Face the Nation" moderator and senior foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan. The five of them break down what's on the line for the candidates.


Sanders could face scrutiny after controversial comments on Cuba

Sanders may face more criticism on the debate stage for saying that Cuban dictator Fidel Castro raised literacy rates during his regime. In an interview with "60 Minutes" which aired Sunday, Sanders said it is "unfair to simply say everything is bad" about the communist government.

Sanders doubled down on this position in a CNN town hall with Buttigieg and Steyer Monday evening, saying "truth is truth." However, Sanders emphasized that he is "critical of all authoritarian regimes all over the world including Cuba," although he believes "teaching people to read and write is a good thing."

Several Democrats slammed Sanders for his comments, including Buttigieg, who has singled Sanders out as a threat to the Democratic Party.

"I don't want as a Democrat to be explaining why our nominee is encouraging people to look on the bright side of the Castro regime when we are going into the election of our lives," Buttigieg said in the CNN town hall Monday night.

Democrats in Florida, which has a large Cuban population, also expressed dismay at Sanders' comments. Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa pushed back against Sanders' comments in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday afternoon.

"I will let Bernie Sanders speak for his comments, but we are very clear in the Democratic Party that we speak out against brutal dictatorships like those of Castro and we support the people of Cuba, fleeing Cuba under that dictatorship," Hinojosa said. She also urged all candidates to travel to Florida and speak with Cuban emigrants and their families before making comments about the Cuban government.

By Grace Segers

Will Democratic voters who oppose abortion rights sit out the South Carolina primary?

Democratic candidates and the debate over abortion 04:08

Some Democratic voters who oppose abortion rights may sit out the South Carolina primary, CBS News' Kate Smith reports, as every candidate supports access to abortion. A recent Pew poll found that 20% of Democratic voters believe abortion should be illegal, meaning that this is a critical issue for a not-insignificant chunk of the party.

"This is not a group of people that the candidates should be discounting, and not one that we should be ignoring," Smith said. These voters are also wondering if there is any room for them in the party, as candidates such as frontrunner Sanders believe abortion to be a fundamental health care right.

However, pro-abortion access groups such as Planned Parenthood are spending record amounts to convince supporters that this is an essential election fight.

By Grace Segers

"Biden has to do well in South Carolina," says Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook

2016 campaign managers on what to expect from South Carolina debate 04:37

CBS News political contributors Terry Sullivan and Robby Mook, Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton's respective 2016 campaign managers, join "CBS This Morning" to discuss what to expect from the candidates.


What to read before the debate


What voters want to ask the candidates

CBS News

Ahead of the debate, CBS News asked voters across the country about what questions they would like answered by the field of Democratic candidates. Their questions covered everything from immigration, to climate change, to health care.  

Shannon Creswell said she switched from being a Democrat to an Independent "due to the DNC failures on the current platform."

She said she wanted to ask candidates, "if you were the nominee, how as the de facto leader of the Democratic party, would you do damage control... and woo back people like myself?"

Read more about questions to the candidates here.


Biden still leads with black voters in the state


Among black voters in South Carolina, Biden still holds a lead, although his lead has narrowed since November. According to CBS News Battleground Tracker on February 23, Biden had 35%, followed by Steyer at 24% and Sanders at 23%. 

Biden has lost ground with white voters, too. He led with whites in November, but Sanders does now.

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