Updated at 11:56 a.m. ET on January 31
AMES, IOWA—National news outlets have published a series of news articles and commentary recently devoted to the idea that Senator Bernie Sanders’s supporters are singularly cruel.
This week, The New York Times dedicated 3,000 words to the subject, delineating the threats and insults sent by Sanders’s “internet army” since 2016 to its opponents online. The Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin unfavorably compared his supporters to those of Donald Trump, remarking that Sanders’s is “the most divisive campaign in the primary.” A Daily Beast story warned that Sanders’s “toxic wedge of fandom … threatens to distract from his campaign and turn off potential supporters.”
Yet in the face of negative coverage, Team Bernie does not seem particularly distressed, perhaps because they don’t see it as a threat to the campaign. Sanders staffers have dismissed the accusations on social media and in interviews. Written guidance from the campaign, obtained by The Atlantic, instructs volunteers to tell any voters who ask that supporters’ “Bernie bro” reputation “is a media-driven perception.”
Sanders fans and volunteers I’ve spoken with are not especially concerned either—they don’t see these reports as damaging to their guy. “Each political campaign probably has their bro-y moments,” Emily Ernst, a graduate student, told me outside a Sanders rally at the Ames City Auditorium last weekend. “That’s to be expected,” said her friend, standing beside her, who declined to give his name. “There will always be some people who will be like that, but I don’t think it’s something to be concerned about.”