WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren walked back her explosive comments that the Democratic primary process in 2016 was “rigged,” telling a local newspaper in Massachusetts this week that the process was “fair.”
The change in her view of the Democratic primary came six days after she shocked Democrats by unexpectedly wading into the party’s civil war and validating former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile’s allegations that Hillary Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters controlled party operations before Clinton was the nominee.
Warren told the Springfield Republican on Wednesday there was “some bias” within the DNC when the ultimate nominee, Clinton, and Bernie Sanders were battling for the party’s nomination. But she also said “the overall 2016 primary process was fair and Hillary made history.”
It’s a marked change from her comments last week when Warren said in three national TV interviews that the process was rigged. She was most explicit in a back-and-forth with PBS’s Judy Woodruff in which she said: “We recognize the process was rigged, and now it is up to Democrats to build a new process, a process that really works, and works for everyone.”
On Thursday, a spokesman for Warren, Lacey Rose, said, “Senator Warren believes there was bias at the DNC but when asked in an interview on Wednesday she clarified her belief that the broader primary process was fair.”
The incident reveals the difficulty Warren has had as she increasingly opens up to the news media and speaks out on a broader array of issues. During her first four years in the Senate she declined most interview requests and largely spoke to friendly reporters on the political left or her local news organizations. And she typically would stick to her favorite themes, deriding Wall Street and big banks who she says victimized middle-class Americans.
But this year as Warren is facing reelection in 2018 and eyeing a presidential race in 2020, she has begun to speak more frequently to the national news media. She made her initial comments about the Democratic primary being “rigged” last Thursday in a series of national TV interviews that were mostly focused on her criticisms of President Trump’s tax plan.
In those interviews Warren was asked to respond to questions about an op-ed entitled “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Take Over of the DNC” published in Politico by Brazile, who charged that the fund-raising at the committee was tilted toward Clinton because of an unusual legal agreement that gave Clinton influence over the party during the primary.
But Sanders’ campaign had the option to use the same fund-raising loophole that Clinton’s team took advantage of, and chose not to. Clinton’s advisers denied that they had influence over day-to-day operations at the DNC before she was the nominee.
Brazile also walked her own observations back on Wednesday in an interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“The process was not rigged,” Brazile said Wednesday. “I believe it was a fair fight because ultimately the voters decided.”
Annie Linskey can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @AnnieLinskey.