Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said she was "disappointed to hear" that the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, one of her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, had reportedly instructed volunteers to criticize her as a candidate of the elite.
The Sanders campaign distributed scripts instructing volunteers to tell voters considering voting for Warren that the "people who support her are highly-educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what" and that "she's bringing no new bases into the Democratic Party," Politico first reported on Saturday.
"I like Elizabeth Warren. [optional]," the script obtained by the outlet reads.
"In fact, she's my second choice. But here's my concern about her," it adds, before moving to the criticism of her supporters.
It is unclear if the script was intended for phone calls or door-to-door efforts. It also reportedly urges volunteers to tell those considering voting for former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg that he lacks support among black voters and to tell voters backing former Vice President Joe Biden that he "he doesn't really have any volunteers" and that "no one is really excited about him."
The Sanders campaign did not challenge the authenticity of the script, according to Politico. But Sanders later told reporters that he did not approve of it, according to BuzzFeed News' Ruby Cramer.
"I think this is a little bit of a media blow up," he said Sunday. "Elizabeth Warren is a very good friend of mine. We have worked together in the Senate for year . . . We will debate the issues. Nobody is going to trash Elizabeth."
When a reporter pointed out that his campaign was trashing Warren, Sanders said he never approved of the memo.
"We have hundreds of employees. Elizabeth Warren has hundreds of employees. And people sometimes say things that they shouldn't," he said. "You have heard me give many speeches. Have I ever said one word about Elizabeth Warren?"
"I have never said a negative word about Elizabeth Warren, who is a friend of mine," he added. "We have differences on issues. That's what a campaign is about. But no one is going to be attacking Elizabeth."
Warren told reporters Sunday that factionalism impacted the Democratic Party in 2016, and a repeat would not bode well for 2020.
"I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me," she told NBC News. "Bernie knows me and has known me for a long time. He knows who I am, where I come from, what I have worked on and fought for and the coalition and grassroots movement we are trying to build. Democrats want to win in 2020. We all saw the impact of the factionalism in 2016, and we can't have a repeat of that."
Warren said that candidates "need to unite our party."
"We cannot nominate someone who takes big chunks of the Democratic coalition for granted," she said. "We need someone who will bring our party together. We need someone who will excite every part of the Democratic Party, someone who will be there, someone that every Democrat can believe in. I hope Bernie reconsiders and turns his campaign in a different direction."
Sanders did not discuss the parts of the script, which criticize other candidates, such as Biden.
The script reportedly warns Biden backers that Trump would "clobber him on his Iraq War vote, for instance, and his support for free trade agreements. That's exactly what Trump did with Hillary, and it's part of why Hillary lost."
"Joe Biden would crush Donald Trump in a general election," Biden spokesman Andrew Bates told Politico. "There's no constituency in our party waiting to simply reward whomever attacks other Democrats the most — especially not during the most high-stakes election of our lifetimes."
While Sanders vowed not to attack Warren, he has increasingly gone after Biden's foreign policy record.
"It's just a lot of baggage that Joe takes into a campaign, which isn't going to create energy and excitement," Sanders told The Washington Post earlier this month. "He brings into this campaign a record which is so weak that it just cannot create the kind of excitement and energy that is going to be needed to defeat Donald Trump."
"I don't respond to Bernie's ridiculous comments," Biden later told reporters. "You're not going to get me in a fight with Bernie. Bernie's got enough baggage."
The intraparty sniping comes as Sanders sits atop polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire., the two states to weigh in first on the Democratic nomination. Those numbers have even caught the attention of President Donald Trump. A Trump campaign official told NBC News on Sunday that the president's campaign was "shifting its focus to going after Sanders."
"Wow! Crazy Bernie Sanders is surging in the polls, looking very good against his opponents in the Do Nothing Party," Trump weeted Sunday. "So what does this all mean? Stay tuned!"