MSNBC host Kasie Hunt got into a relatively combative exchange with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) on the eve of his appearance at the first Democratic debates.
With 383 days to go before the 2020 Democratic National Convention as of Wednesday, the current field of Democratic presidential candidates is packed, with roughly two dozen federal elected officials, governors, mayors, and others all angling for the chance to take on President Trump in 2020. While there are ten candidates debating Wednesday night, and ten more debating Thursday night, the threshold to qualify for debates beginning in September 2019 is much higher, and fewer candidates are expected to be onstage for those debates.
In short, it’s still very early in the race to be calling winners and losers.
Nonetheless, MSNBC host Kasie Hunt confronted Sen. Sanders in a terse interview prior to the first debates about whether or not he would drop out to endorse the eventual Democratic nominee prior to the 2020 convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
HUNT: If it’s clear that you are not gonna be the Democratic nominee, will you leave the race before the convention?
SANDERS: I intend to be the Democratic nominee.
HUNT: But if you’re not, and you stated last time —
SANDERS: I have —
HUNT: — And some people say —
SANDERS: Wait, whoa, whoa whoa —
HUNT: — That you hurt Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
SANDERS: Well, some people say that maybe if that system was not rigged against me, I would have won the nomination, and I would have defeated Donald Trump. That’s what some people say. So I think we’re going to play it out —
HUNT: So you would take the risk, and you might give Donald Trump the edge?
SANDERS: Are you asking that of every candidate?
HUNT: I’m saying that if it’s clear that you are not gonna win the nomination, will you concede?
SANDERS: Well, right now, we are planning to win the Democratic nomination.
MSNBC: If it's clear you aren't going to be the nominee, will you concede before the convention?
SANDERS: I intend to be the Dem nominee
M: But if you're not. You stayed in last time
S: Some people say that maybe if the system wasn't rigged against me, I would've beat Trump
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 26, 2019
As of this writing, Sanders may very well win the Democratic nomination in 2020. Poll aggregator RealClearPolitics shows that former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Sanders are #1 and #2 in most polls, respectively, with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) not far behind. The rest of the candidates, however, are near the bottom, with most garnering less than 5% approval. 12 candidates are, according to RealClearPolitics, garnering less than 1% support in most polls.
It could be argued that MSNBC has an unusually hostile view of Sen. Sanders, given the overall negative tone of coverage the network has given to the Vermont senator. In May, a Morning Consult poll found that viewers of Fox News — widely known as President Trump’s favorite network — are more likely to vote for Sanders (22% of Fox viewers) than viewers of MSNBC (just 13% of viewers), despite Sanders openly identifying as a Democratic Socialist.
Hunt isn’t the only MSNBC anchor to have gotten into a tense exchange with Sanders. Following remarks Biden made at a fundraiser in which he spoke positively about his relationships with white supremacist and segregationist senators — like James O. Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia — Sen. Sanders called on his 2020 rival to apologize. MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle talked over Sanders as he was explaining that it wasn’t bipartisanship he disagreed with, but the positive framing of “very brutal segregationists.”
“That wasn’t what Joe Biden was doing,” Ruhle said. “Joe Biden was trying to make the point that bipartisanship was necessary, he’s done so by working with the deplorable of deplorables, that’s why he gave the example of the segregationists.”
“Ma’am, if you disagree with me, I’m sorry,” Sanders said.
— Tommy Xtophernobyl (@tommyxtopher) June 20, 2019
As Grit Post pointed out in April, MSNBC used false information on a graphic showing support for leading Democratic candidates among non-white voters. MSNBC incorrectly cited a Monmouth University poll to claim that 28% of non-white voters preferred Joe Biden while 25% of non-white voters preferred Sanders. In contrast to the MSNBC graphic, Sanders was actually the favored candidate among non-white voters in that very same Monmouth poll, with 27% support compared to just 25% support for Biden. The network has not apologized for the misleading graphic as of this writing.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.