The Slatest

A Brief Guide to the Pettiest Scandal of Campaign 2020

These next nine months are going to last a decade.

Hands hold up a pink book that says "Bernie Book" on the front.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve been anywhere near Twitter in the past 24 hours, you may have heard some murmurings about a recent uproar involving a Bernie Sanders regional field director, the Daily Beast, and some rude tweets. And if you’ve somehow avoided a fully liquified brain up to this point, you probably have some questions about what happened and how much you actually need to care. And boy, do we have just the post for you.

Fine, what happened?

Last night, the Daily Beast posted a story about Ben Mora, a Bernie Sanders regional field director who used a private account to post mean tweets about a number of Democratic candidates and their surrogates. When the Daily Beast presented the tweets to the Sanders campaign, it responded by promptly firing Mora, which made some Sanders supporters very mad.


Were the tweets really that bad?

Some of them were pretty bad! One encouraged followers to infiltrate the Bloomberg campaign. Others were fine and kind of funny. Life is a rich tapestry.

But if his account was locked, wouldn’t most people not be able to see the tweets anyway?

Mora’s account was indeed private, but it did still have 4,000 followers—at least one of whom was not as friendly an audience as he assumed they were. And just because the access to a tweet is limited doesn’t mean the tweets themselves stop existing.

Why exactly are we talking about this?

Ever since 2016, Sanders supporters (of which, full disclosure, I am one) have been painted as uniquely toxic and aggressive, sometimes for valid reasons and other times for reasons that are less so. Regardless, this has made extremely online Sanders fans particularly sensitive to any accusation of general meanness. This is especially true when the accusation comes from national media outlets that tend toward Sanders skepticism. So after word got out that Mora had been let go, Sanders supporters descended on Scott Bixby, the Daily Beast reporter who wrote the original story. One retaliatory tactic involved signing him up for what appear to have been thousands of spam texts.


What else did they do?

At least one Twitter user tried to trick the notoriously devout fans of K-pop band BTS into going after Bixby by photoshopping tweets that showed him dissing the group.

A tweet in which a user posts a photoshopped tweet of Scott Bixby saying, "I think we can all agree BTS is talentless," and Bixby quote-tweeting said tweet.

OK, that one’s kind of funny.


So who’s actually in the right here?


Well, Bixby’s story was certainly more self-serious than it needed to be, and Mora was a relatively low-level staffer who didn’t necessarily merit this level of scrutiny. That said, it’s hard to argue that his tweets weren’t at all newsworthy, particularly in a campaign where acts of rudeness are being treated as a wedge issue. Sanders supporters also probably shouldn’t be attacking a reporter en masse, especially when it’s to defend themselves against accusations of undue aggression.

The most accurate assessment I can muster is that it was a vaguely lousy story about vaguely lousy behavior that got an even lousier response. People will probably forget it ever happened by tomorrow.

Does that mean I can stop reading this and never think about it again?

Reader, it does.