Bernie Sanders' Speaker Says "Democratic Whores" At A Rally, Just The Latest In An Unruly Primary Season
Bernie Sanders' Washington Square Park rally drew huge crowds Wednesday night as New York natives Spike Lee and Rosario Dawson addressed the crowd. But that's not the part of the night that Twitter is remembering. Dr. Paul Song, an oncologist and healthcare activist married to journalist Lisa Ling, stirred up controversy when he said "corporate Democratic whores" immediately after referencing Hillary Clinton's views that passing universal healthcare is not politically realistic right now. The comment made #DemocraticWhores trend on Twitter, and it's just the latest example of a candidate supporter going off script. This election season has seen candidates really struggle to control their campaign's messaging, even that of actual staff and surrogates.
The sexist remark, first reported on Twitter by MSNBC political reporter Alex Seitz-Wald, tarnishes Sanders' otherwise successful night; among the many tweets about the ordeal are several asking him to disavow Song's sexist language. Sanders wasn't on stage at the time, but he did later thank Song (and the other speakers) for helping to introduce him. Just as Trump should disavow the violent rhetoric at his rallies, Sanders should disavow any sexist rhetoric at his.
Apologizing on Twitter, Song has since implied he was talking about politicians elected to Congress, but in context, it sure sounds like he's talking about Clinton:
Now Secretary Clinton has said that Medicare for all will never happen. [boos] Well, I agree with Secretary Clinton that Medicare for all will never happen if we have a president who never aspires for something greater than the status quo. [cheers] Medicare for all will never happen if we continue to elect corporate Democratic whores [cheers] who are beholden to big pharma and the private insurance industry instead of us.
Some of Bernie's supporters have been accused of similar sexist comments for months, particularly the "Bernie Bros," who love to mansplain the election issues on social media. The degree to their proliferation remains contentious, but they are out there — and there are plenty of women and minorities who have been turned off.
That's completely unacceptable — and weirdly remarkable, given the work that campaigns do to try and stay on message. Even more noteworthy, though, is the frequency in which it has happened this campaign season among nearly all the candidates. Sanders, Clinton, Trump, and even Cruz have had trouble keeping their team on target.
Most recently, the Clinton campaign had trouble with its biggest surrogate: Bill. He got into a heated exchange with Black Lives Matters protesters last Thursday who were rallying against former President Clinton's 1994 Crime Bill, which many claim has led to the high levels of mass incarceration that we see today. Clinton didn't want to hear their side of it, but he also couldn't silently listen. It got pretty heated. "You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter. Tell the truth," he said. He has apologized, but the Hillary campaign can't be happy.
The most extreme example among the candidates is Trump. He doesn't seem to be worried about keeping his supporters or surrogates under control. Think that violent rhetoric or Sarah Palin's illiterate speeches. But even more remarkable is the trouble Trump has had trouble keeping his own campaign manager out of jail — let alone under control. Corey Lewandowski was charged with battery at the end of March for allegedly grabbing a reporter's arm. And while it now appears charges will not be filed, this is not the kind of attention you want to bring to a campaign.
Cruz's staff can't keep themselves on message — certainly not a truthful one, at least. Back in Iowa, Cruz's camp sent out emails, texts, and even started some robo-dials announcing that Ben Carson was quitting the race after Iowa. They claimed that they got the news from some journalists' reports sourced from Twitter that Carson was headed home to Iowa after the race.
Some of these uncontrolled messaging is worse than others, but it really makes you wonder how the candidates and their campaigns don't have a better handle on it — especially given the existence of 24-hour TV news and millions of nitpickers on Twitter. In 2016, you can't get away with sexist, racist, violent, or just plain untrue commentary and not expect to get caught. Maybe the respective nominees will step up their game in the general... unless of course Trump is the Republican nominee. Then, there really is no hope.