DNC chair rips Sanders response to Nevada chaos

Story highlights

  • Sanders supporters shut down the Nevada Democrats' convention Saturday
  • Clinton supporters have claimed to CNN that they have been targeted by Sanders supporters

Washington (CNN)Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Tuesday that Bernie Sanders' response to the chaos his supporters caused in Nevada was "anything but acceptable," likening it to the violence occasionally seen at Donald Trump events.

Wasserman Schultz told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that she thought Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's request that Sanders issue a statement about the chaos "was enough. Unfortunately, the senator's response was anything but acceptable. It certainly did not condemn his supporters for acting violently or engaging in intimidation tactics and instead added more fuel to the fire."
    Sanders issued a defiant statement Tuesday, knocking Democratic Party leaders in Nevada and threatening national party leaders with potential damage in the general election.
    "It is never OK for violence and intimidation to be the response to that frustration. That's what happens with the Trump campaign. We can never resort to the tactics that they engage in," Wasserman Schultz said.
    Sanders supporters shut down the Nevada Democrats' convention Saturday, reportedly flinging chairs and sending death threats to the state party chairwoman. But in a statement Tuesday, Sanders accused state party leaders of ramming through rules that he said blocked his supporters and threatened the national party with potentially dire consequences in the general election.
    Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver directly rebutted Wasserman Schultz critique on Wednesday, telling CNN it's just the latest in a long string of "throwing shade" on the Vermont senator, adding later, "It's not the DNC. By and large, people in the DNC have been good to us. Debbie Wasserman Schultz really is the exception."
    "We can have a long conversation about Debbie Wasserman Schultz just about how she's been throwing shade on the Sanders campaign from the very beginning," Jeff Weaver told CNN's Chris Cuomo on "New Day."
    In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Sanders accused Nevada party leaders of boxing out his backers and refused to apologize for the chaos for which his campaign has been blamed.
    Sanders also alleged that shots were fired into his campaign office several months ago, though he did not speculate who was responsible.
    "If the Democratic Party is to be successful in November, it is imperative that all state parties treat our campaign supporters with fairness and the respect that they have earned," Sanders said. "At (the Nevada) convention, the Democratic leadership used its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place."
    Sanders also parried accusations of violence by his supporters by saying that they have actually been targeted because of the rough neighborhoods they have worked in.
    "When we speak of violence, I should add here that months ago, during the Nevada campaign, shots were fired into my campaign office in Nevada and apartment housing complex my campaign staff lived in was broken into and ransacked," Sanders said in the statement.
    Casino security shut down the convention Saturday night amid a chaotic fight between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Sanders that some worry could presage a showdown at the party's national convention in Philadelphia in just a few months. In a letter sent Monday to national party officials, state party leaders accused the Sanders campaign of inciting violence, although the Sanders campaign denied that allegation.
    Clinton supporters have claimed to CNN that they have been targeted by Sanders supporters and have repeatedly asked the Vermont senator to control them. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevadan and Clinton supporter, spoke privately with Sanders before the convention in an attempt to head off any chaos and said afterward that he held Sanders' campaign accountable for the chaos.
    Speaking with CNN's Manu Raju Tuesday afternoon, Reid angrily responded to Sanders' statement, saying he thought the Vermont senator would have handled the matter differently.
    "Bernie should say something -- not have some silly statement. Bernie is better than that. Bernie should say something -- not have some statement someone else prepared for him," Reid said. "I'm surprised by his statement. I thought he was going to do something different."
    The fight comes as Clinton has struggled to secure the Democratic Party nomination. Clinton backers have struggled to find a way to push Sanders out of the race without alienating his base of liberal voters.