Senator Bernie Sanders announced Thursday that he would not be attending the Women’s Convention, one week after the announcement that he would be the kickoff speaker for the event created an instant backlash. From the Hill:
“I want to apologize to the organizers of the Women’s Convention for not being able to attend your conference next Friday in Detroit. Given the emergency situation in Puerto Rico, I will be traveling there to visit with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and other officials to determine the best way forward to deal with the devastation the island is experiencing,” Sanders said in a statement.
“The U.S. Congress cannot turn its back on the millions of people in Puerto Rico who, four weeks after the hurricane, are still without electricity, food and running water,” he continued.
The announcement comes after the Women’s Convention faced fierce backlash for choosing Sanders to address the 3,000 women activists on the opening day of the conference.
As I wrote last week, the anger over Sanders selection was intense and widespread. High profile feminists criticized the choice as a step backward:
It’s Marching backwards. We don’t need a man to delineate our mission. Men have “spoken” for us for eons. https://t.co/2Y2SPMZnRw
— Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) October 12, 2017
I predicted Sanders would have to bow out, but it’s still not clear how his decision came about. Earlier today Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour hosted a “daring discussion” on Facebook with one of the women who created a petition asking organizers to reconsider Sanders’ participation. The gist of the 22-minute talk is that the Women’s March organizers are open to criticism, but during the discussion, Sarsour still says Sanders is on a panel at the convention. So it seems that as of a few hours ago, Sarsour was unaware Sanders was pulling out.
So long as Sanders was still attending his presence was going to be a reminder of a clumsy misstep by the organizers. The fact that Sarsour was still trying to tamp down the issue this morning, a week before the event, suggests it was still a problem. The Women’s March organizers may not have been willing to rescind the invitation and thereby admit they blew it, but Sanders was wise to find somewhere else to be.