Politics

Sanders Condemns Violence But Plays Down Nevada Events

Harry Reid says Vermont senator does not condone harassment

Sen. Bernie Sanders dismissed claims that his campaign encourages violence as "nonsense." (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders decried the escalating violence in the race Tuesday, but played down the events that led to chaos and fist fights at the Nevada Democratic Party convention over the weekend.  

"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 wrote in a statement released Tuesday.  

"But, when we speak of violence, I should add here that months ago, during the Nevada campaign, shots were fired into my campaign office in Nevada and [an] apartment housing complex my campaign staff lived in was broken into and ransacked."  

[Related: Sanders, Clinton Scrap Way to Nevada Town Hall] The Sanders campaign also ridiculed statements by state Democratic officials.  

"Party leaders in Nevada, for example, claim that the Sanders campaign has a ‘penchant for violence.’ That is nonsense," the statement said. "Our campaign has held giant rallies all across this country, including in high-crime areas, and there have been zero reports of violence."  

[Related: How Harry Helped Hillary Win Nevada] Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said he spoke to Sanders on Tuesday and believes the Vermont senator will call on his supporters to stop the kind of behavior witnessed in Nevada, which included throwing chairs on the stage, shouting down a senator and fighting with Clinton delegates.  

"He said that he condemns that, and I'm confident he does. I'm confident he will be saying something about it soon. This is a test of leadership, as we all know," said Reid, a Nevada Democrat. "I'm hopeful and confident that Sen. Sanders will do the right thing."  

[Related: Clinton-Sanders Fights Turn Violent] "He and I had a very long conversation, for me. As some of you know my conversations aren't very long a lot of times," Reid said. "It was a very good conversation. I laid out to him what happened in Las Vegas. I wanted to make sure he understands, that he heard what went on there. The violence and all the other bad things that happened there."  

The Nevada State Democratic Party on Monday sent a formal letter to the Democratic National Committee warning of potential violence at the national convention in Philadelphia, after the state party chairwoman received a barrage of threats, including on her life.  

[Related: Nevada Democrats Warn DNC of Violence From Sanders Supporters] DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement that the leaders would be reaching out to both campaigns "to ask them to stand with the Democratic Party in denouncing and taking steps to prevent the type of behavior on display over the weekend in Las Vegas."   

Contact Lesniewski at NielsLesniewski@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @nielslesniewski. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.