WASHINGTON — Under pressure from Democratic Party leaders to denounce ugly tactics by his supporters, Sen. Bernie Sanders instead struck back with a defiant statement Tuesday that dismissed complaints from Nevada Democrats as "nonsense" and asserted that his backers were not being treated with "fairness and respect."
It followed chaos at the Nevada Democratic Party convention Saturday night, where Sanders' supporters threw chairs, shouted down speakers and later harassed the state party chair with death threats. Democrats pressed Sanders to forcefully denounce it. The dispute stands as the most public rift yet between the Sanders camp and other Democrats, and may undermine the party's attempt to maintain a unified front as frustration mounts among Hillary Clinton supporters that Sanders is continuing his campaign with no clear path to victory.
"Our campaign of course believes in nonviolent change, and it goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals," Sanders said. But far from apologizing for anything his supporters did, Sanders repeated, in detail, their complaints that they were railroaded in the delegate process Saturday night, something Democratic officials deny. "The Democratic leadership used its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place," he said.
Sanders issued his statement moments after speaking with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who told reporters that Sanders had condemned the violence in Las Vegas. "This is a test of leadership as we all know, and I'm hopeful and very confident Sen. Sanders will do the right thing," said Reid, D-Nev.
The head of the Democratic Party, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., also condemned the events in Las Vegas. "There is no excuse for what happened in Nevada, and it is incumbent upon all of us in positions of leadership to speak out," she said.