Tom Steyer insists he didn't listen in on the tense Bernie-Warren post-debate moment he wandered into

Tom Steyer interrupts Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren
(Image credit: Screenshot/YouTube/CNN)

As the Democratic presidential candidates were glad-handing one another after Tuesday night's debate in Des Moines, Tom Steyer ambled into a very intense-looking conversation between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who had not accepted Sanders' handshake. The Daily Show captured the moment with one emoji and a Wizard of Oz gif.

See more

"At the end of the debate, you sort of ended up in the middle of this" moment between Warren and Sanders, CNN's Anderson Cooper prompted Steyer after the debate. "What occurred there?" "Look, I was just going up to say good night to Sen. Sanders," he said. "And I felt like, 'Okay, there's something going on here, good night, I'm outta here.'" Cooper asked more directly, "But what were they arguing about?" And Steyer insisted, "I really wasn't listening."

If you think that sounds unlikely, you aren't alone. "What? How can you not hear Bernie Sanders?" asked CNN's Gloria Borger. "They were talking about getting together or something. I really didn't listen," Steyer insisted. "It was one of those awkward moments where I felt like, 'You know, I need to move on here as fast as possible.'" When Borger asked if he "really didn't" listen, Steyer stuck to his guns: "The last thing I wanted to do was get in between the two of them and try and listen in. That was not my goal, and I didn't do it."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

CNN's Chris Cuomo still wasn't buying Steyer's story. "As a reporter, I know that he knows what they said," he said later in the night. He and his panel agreed that Warren had hit debate gold when she pivoted from the he said, she said dispute with Sanders to make her case that a woman can be elected president. Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm called it the "best moment of the night, clearly," and former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said that Warren "makes a very, very persuasive case" that the U.S. will elect a woman president, rebutting what's "frankly" the "biggest argument against her right now."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.