Senator Elizabeth Warren released a statement Monday night alleging that fellow 2020 contender Senator Bernie Sanders told her he didn't think a woman could win the presidency during a meeting in 2018. Her statement comes hours after CNN reported the alleged comment, which Sanders denies.
"Bernie and I met for more than two hours in December 2018 to discuss the 2020 election, our past work together and our shared goals: beating Donald Trump, taking back our government from the wealthy and well-connected, and building an economy that works for everyone," Warren said in the statement.
"Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed. I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry," she added.
"We have been friends and allies in this fight for a long time, and I have no doubt we will continue to work together to defeat Donald Trump and put our government on the side of the people."
Sanders and Warren appeared to have an unspoken agreement not to attack one another during the primary campaign. But on the eve of the seventhand weeks away from the Iowa caucuses, the courtesy they've shown toward each other is sure to be tested on the debate stage Tuesday night.
Sanders' campaign released an angry statement from the Vermont senator in response to the CNN report.
"It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn't win," Sanders said. "It's sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren't in the room are lying about what happened."
But in a discussion of President Trump's tactics, according to Sanders, sexism did come up during their conversation.
"What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could," he said.
He went on to invoke his primary opponent in 2016, who defeated him for the Democratic nod but lost to Mr. Trump in the general election. "Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016," Sanders said.
To refute the accusation, Sanders' supporters are also pointing to video of a comment he made in 1988, when he said, "The real issue is not whether you're black or white, whether you're a woman or a man — in my view a woman could be elected president of the United States — the real issue is whose side are you on?"
Fellow presidential contender Tulsi Gabbard weighed in on the controversy in a tweet supporting Sanders. "I also met with @BernieSanders before announcing my candidacy," the representative wrote. "We had a nice one-on-one conversation and I informed him that I would be running for President. In that meeting, he showed me the greatest respect and encouragement, just as he always has."
Cara Korte, Ed O'Keefe and Zak Hudak contributed to this report.