Sanders Apologizes For Surrogate’s Op-Ed Claiming Biden Has ‘Corruption Problem’

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) apologized for an opinion piece written by one of his campaign surrogates that accuses fellow Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of having a “big corruption problem.”

“Joe Biden is a friend of mine,” Sanders told CBS News on Monday. “I’ve known him for many, many years. He’s a very decent guy. And Joe and I have strong disagreements on a number of issues. … But it is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way. And I’m sorry that that op-ed appeared.”

The opinion piece, published in The Guardian on Monday, was authored by Zephyr Teachout, a prominent law professor and former New York state attorney general candidate who endorsed Sanders early on in the 2016 election cycle and announced her support for his 2020 bid last month.

She isn’t an official member of the Sanders campaign, but has stumped for him on the campaign trail. Her piece, which argues that “Biden has a big corruption problem and it makes him a weak candidate” was circulated Monday in a newsletter curated by Sanders campaign adviser David Sirota.

The newsletter featuring Teachout’s piece had been removed from the online archive by Tuesday morning.

Sanders has prided himself on refraining from attacking his fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls, so his campaign’s decision to promote the piece was surprising to some of his followers.

Critics also took notice of the timing of the piece’s publication: the day before the Senate is scheduled to kick off its impeachment trial, which largely focuses on President Donald Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Biden.

Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing, claims then-Vice President Biden pushed for the removal of Ukraine’s top prosecutor to impede an investigation into a Ukrainian gas company with ties to his son Hunter.

Ukrainian authorities have said Biden did nothing wrong. What’s more, several world leaders and a bipartisan group of Congress members were also pushing for the prosecutor’s ouster at the time.

Teachout did not mention Biden’s vice presidential dealings with Ukraine in her opinion piece. Instead, she accused the candidate of accepting hefty donations from corporations and pushing for policies that protect their interests.

“Whether or not Biden is making choices to please donors, there is no doubt his record represents the transactional, grossly corrupt culture in Washington that long precedes Trump,” Teachout wrote. 

Biden, in a tweet Monday, thanked Sanders for “acknowledging” the piece.

“These kinds of attacks have no place in this primary,” Biden wrote. “Let’s all keep our focus on making Donald Trump a one-term president.”

The opinion piece followed a tense back-and-forth between the two presidential campaigns earlier this month when Biden accused the Sanders campaign of sharing a “fake” video of him discussing Social Security and Medicare cuts at the Brookings Institution in 2018.

In the short clip shared by Sanders’ campaign, Biden appears to applaud the efforts of then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to dismantle the programs. However, Biden goes on to say that he wanted the programs protected.

There’s no evidence Sanders’ campaign altered the video. But the Sanders campaign did misrepresent Biden’s message by not including the candidate’s full remarks, according to PolitiFact, a nonprofit fact-checking website.

Sanders hasn’t acknowledged PolitiFact’s findings. But Sirota, the Sanders campaign adviser, tweeted a different video Saturday that showed then-Sen. Biden suggesting in 1995 that Congress should freeze Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs.

This article has been updated with more details on the Biden videos shared by the Sanders campaign.

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