Bernie Sanders
Credit: Alex Hanson/Flickr

A lot of Democrats have been worried that the 2020 primary could turn ugly. Before announcing his presidential candidacy, Bernie Sanders urged his supporters to engage respectfully and talk about issues, not personalities or past grievances.

That is why it’s surprising that, only after the Atlantic‘s Edward Isaac-Dovere contacted the Sanders campaign and asked about David Sirota, did they announce that he’d been hired as a senior communications adviser and speechwriter. Even more importantly, Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, confirmed that Sirota had been working for the campaign in an advisory capacity as a trial run for months.

Among progressive bloggers, Sirota has been a known quantity for years; he has a reputation as a relentless attack dog. He was a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders in 2016, having worked for him previously as press secretary in the House. But after the Democratic Convention, when Sanders endorsed Clinton and campaigned for her, Sirota continued to attack her right up until the November election.

Now we know that around the time Sirota was launching attacks against Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Beto O’Rourke, he was working for the Sanders campaign in an “advisory capacity.” For those of us who followed the response to those attacks on Twitter, we watched Sirota get incensed when challenged. He defended himself as an unbiased journalist merely reporting a story, all while ruthlessly attacking his opponents as “mentally incapacitated” or “positively unhinged.”

In any other situation, I would document what I’ve just written with links from Twitter. But here is what Issac-Dovere reports:

On Monday night, after being contacted for a second time by The Atlantic with a list of specific questions about his undisclosed work for Sanders, Sirota did not respond to the email but deleted more than 20,000 tweets. He left fewer than 200 online…

In a brief emailed response, Sirota attributed the scrubbing of his account to having an “autodeleter that periodically and automatically deletes tweets. I started doing this many months ago.” He did not respond when asked if it was a coincidence that the tweets were deleted hours after I contacted him and the morning before he was announced as a Sanders employee.

Luckily, Isaac-Dovere had already preserved some of Sirota’s vituperative tweets through screenshots, including the aforementioned attacks.

I tend to be a trusting person. But the BS is piling up in this story. First we learn that Sirota has been working for the Sanders campaign for months. Whether or not that arrangement began before he started attacking other Democratic candidates is currently in dispute. Then, we’re supposed to believe that his Twitter feed was coincidentally scrubbed the same day that his employment with the campaign was made public.

What concerns me is that there is no way that Bernie Sanders or the people who are running his campaign could be ignorant about David Sirota’s style of engagement. Even if they were, with his work over the last few months getting widespread attention, they must have seen his attacks and liked them, because they decided to bring him on in an official capacity.

There is no one that I can think of who, if hired by a campaign, would more strongly suggest that a candidate intends to treat their opponents as enemies than David Sirota. It’s not that I dislike the guy, I don’t actually know him. It’s just that he has made his modus operandi very clear. If we are to judge the candidates based on the people they hire, this one reflects very badly on Bernie Sanders.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.