Senator Bernie Sanders has had many political allies and rivals over the years, and he has been called many things. Let’s take the month of January, for example, when the Vermont Senator was called everything from a “vibe” to a “mood” to a “style icon” for his relaxed mitten-wearing disposition at the Presidential Inauguration. However — as official records now show, because we live in a bizarre and confusing timeline — he has yet to be called an “ignorant slut.”
During her Wednesday morning confirmation hearing, Neera Tanden — President Joe Biden’s controversial pick for Office of Management and Budget director — faced a series of questions about her disparaging comments on social media. A staunch “liberal” (who is mostly hated by liberals) and former Hillary Clinton aide, Tanden criticized both conservative and progressive leaders in over a thousand deleted tweets. Also problematic Louisiana Rep. John Kennedy ironically decided to press Tanden on her social media presence.
“I have to tell you, I’m very disturbed about your personal comments about people,” Kennedy said. “It wasn’t just about Republicans. And I don’t mind disagreements on policy. I think that’s great, I love the dialectic, but the comments were personal. I mean, you called Senator Sanders everything but an ignorant slut.”
Tanden responded that Kennedy’s claims were “not true” and said she regrets her tweets. “I’d say the discourse over the last four years on all sides has been incredibly polarizing,” she said. Kennedy repeatedly asked whether she meant what she wrote online, and she said several times that she felt “really badly” about her words. Eventually, she said, “Senator, I must have meant them, but I really regret them.”
After a silence, Kennedy said, “I want the record to reflect that I did not call Senator Sanders an ignorant slut.” The comment is possibly a reference to a 2007 episode of The Office, in which Michael Scott (Steve Carell) calls Dwight (Rainn Wilson) an ignorant slut. Sanders replied, “I don’t know how I should take that,” and then moved on with the hearing. (Iconic, once again.)
CLIP: Exchange between Senator Kennedy and OMB nominee Neera Tanden.@SenJohnKennedy: "You called Senator Sanders everything but an 'ignorant slut.'"
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 10, 2021
So, where on earth did this line of questioning even come from, and why have the words “Bernie Sanders” and “ignorant slut” been used in the same sentence so many times in three minutes? Hundreds of Tanden’s tweets were deleted in 2020, shortly after Biden tapped her to lead the OMB. In one tweet, she wrote, “Russia did a lot more to help Bernie than the DNC’s random internal emails did to help Hillary.” In another, she reportedly wrote that vampires have more heart than Senator Ted Cruz, and she also likened Senator Mitch McConnell to Voldemort.
During her hearing, many senators questioned Tanden’s ability to remain bipartisan. “Your attacks were not just made against Republicans. There were vicious attacks made against progressives. People who I have worked with, me personally,” Sanders said. “It’s not a question of being hurt… But it’s important that we make the attacks expressing our differences in policy and that we don’t need to make personal attacks no matter what views somebody may hold.”
There is an obvious hypocrisy here, though, in Republicans like Kennedy and Texas Senator John Cornyn vilifying Tanden for her tweets but standing by Donald Trump — a onetime avid tweeter currently facing a second impeachment for incitement of insurrection. Cornyn, who has called Tanden’s comments “combative and insulting,” also slammed the idea of impeaching Trump. “I don’t think you can impeach a president for constitutionally protected speech, which I believe this was,” he said on Tuesday.
The left, however, isn’t only critical of Tanden’s tweets, but her alarming policies, too. She has previously pushed for cuts to social security and, as Sanders pointed out, her “liberal” think tank has accepted $33 million in corporate donations, including roughly $5.5 million from Walmart and $800,000 from Facebook.
“At a time when the wealthy and large corporations have extraordinary influence over the economic and political life of this country, I must tell you that I am concerned about the level of corporate donations that the Center for American Progress has received under your leadership,” Sanders said. Tanden said that, in her new role, she will only serve the interests of the American people. And, just so we’re clear, she also won’t be slut-shaming the Senate Budget Committee Chair, which is always a good thing, I guess.
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