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As 2020 Race Heats Up Ahead of Primaries and Caucuses, Sanders Surrogate Argues Biden 'Has Repeatedly Betrayed Black Voters'

The op-ed from co-chair Nina Turner comes as the Biden and Sanders campaigns are clashing over the former vice president's Iraq War vote.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) gestures as former Vice President Joe Biden listens during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Loyola Marymount University on December 19, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Among the signals that the Democratic presidential race is heating up in the final few weeks before the first round of caucuses and primaries, a leader in Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign on Sunday published an op-ed detailing former Vice President Joe Biden's record on racial issues and encouraging black voters to support Sanders.

In an op-ed for The State—a newspaper based in South Carolina, which will hold the nation's fourth nominating contest on Feb. 29—Sanders 2020 co-chair Nina Turner, an African American woman, wrote:

Will our community side with former Vice President Joe Biden, who has repeatedly betrayed black voters to side with Republican lawmakers and undermine our progress? Or will we stand with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and a movement that has been fighting for racial and economic justice since the civil rights era?

This critical choice is illustrated by the key differences between Biden and Sanders—which began at the beginning of their respective careers.

Turner highlighted moments from each man's political career to establish a contrast between them. She pointed to Biden's votes and advocacy for "bills designed to prevent black students from accessing white schools" compared with Sanders organizing civil rights protests as a college student in Chicago.

Recalling the 1991 hearings to confirm Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court justice, when Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, Turner wrote that "Biden facilitated the public degradation of Anita Hill, an esteemed professor already victimized by a powerful man."

The op-ed also noted Biden and Sanders' positions on so-called "welfare reform" in the 1990s as well as "tough on crime" legislation and economic policies, including 2005 bankruptcy legislation that Biden backed. "And today, "Turner wrote, "the differences between Biden and Sanders remain stark."

As Turner explained, Biden "opposes Democratic efforts to legalize marijuana" while Sanders supports not only legalization but also criminal justice reform to address institutional racism; Biden opposes transitioning to a Medicare for All healthcare system, for which Sanders has advocated for years; and Biden "has refused to support Sanders' bill to make public colleges and universities tuition free and cancel all student debt."

"By supporting a racial justice champion like Sanders—and his popular progressive agenda—black Americans will forge a multiracial, multigenerational working-class alliance that will generate the high turnout necessary to beat President Donald Trump," she concluded. "In standing with Sanders over Biden, we will declare that we are not going backward—we are going forward into a future of empowerment and equality for all."

According to Sanders 2020 speechwriter and senior adviser David Sirota—who wrote about Turner's op-ed in the most recent edition of BERN NOTICE, a newsletter he authors for the campaign—Turner scheduled multiple televised interviews to discuss her piece for The State.

Ryan Lizza, Politico's chief Washington correspondent, tweeted in response to Turner's op-ed that "this is the whole kitchen sink against Biden." He added that it "will be interesting to see if Sanders is willing makes these same attacks at Tuesday night's debate."

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Alex Thompson, also of Politico, agreed with Lizza's characterization of the op-ed, writing in a series of tweets that it "has kitchen sink vibes."

Responding to one of Thompson's tweets, Sanders 2020 national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray wrote, "I wish the media/political figures were as concerned [about] how Joe Biden's bad judgement has hurt black people as they are [about] the horserace."

"If they covered the substance of the article, they'd have to admit that the critique is true," she added. "Trump won't hesitate to talk about it."

The Twitter thread from Politico's Thompson also mentioned a report he published late Saturday, with journalist Holly Otterbein, about how "the nonaggression pact between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren is seriously fraying," based on "talking points his campaign is using to sway voters and obtained by Politico."

A reproduction of the talking points that Thompson shared on Twitter features sections about Warren, Biden, and Pete Buttigieg. Thompson and Otterbein reported that "it is unclear whether the script is being used for phone calls or door knocking or both, or in which locations."

"The Sanders campaign did not challenge the authenticity of the script, but it declined to comment," Politico noted. "The Warren campaign also declined to comment."

Turner's op-ed and the Politico report came as surrogates for Biden and Sanders' campaigns continued to clash over Biden's vote for the Iraq War, which Sanders himself highlighted during an appearance on CNN earlier this month.

After former Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday defended Biden's Iraq War record—laying blame on the George W. Bush administration, which "broke their word with respect to how they would proceed"—Sanders 2020 senior adviser Jeff Weaver hit back with a statement on Saturday.

"It is appalling that after 18 years Joe Biden still refuses to admit he was dead wrong on the Iraq War, the worst foreign policy blunder in modern American history," said Weaver. "Unlike 23 of his Senate colleagues who got it right, Biden made explicitly clear that he was voting for war, and even after the war started, he boasted that he didn't regret it."

"Bernie Sanders saw the same information and had the judgment to vote against the Iraq War," he added. "That's the kind of commander in chief we need—someone with the toughness and judgment to get those calls right, not someone who undermined Democratic opposition, enthusiastically supported a disastrous war, refuses to admit mistakes, and then tries to rewrite history."

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