A week after the announcement that Bernie Sanders would be a major speaker at the upcoming Women’s Convention, the U.S. senator from Vermont has backed out of the event altogether. Sanders instead will travel to Puerto Rico to assess the continuing crisis there in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The Women’s March announced the change in a post on Twitter, saying, “We were grateful Senator Sanders had accepted our invitation … but the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico — which is being exacerbated by the inaction of our federal government — is a critical matter.” The convention, the first of its kind in 40 years, is scheduled to take place in Detroit from October 27-29.
Sanders, in a statement to The Washington Post, confirmed the change of plans. “I want to apologize to the organizers of the Women’s Convention for not being able to attend your conference next Friday in Detroit. Given the emergency situation in Puerto Rico, I will be traveling there to visit with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and other officials to determine the best way forward to deal with the devastation the island is experiencing,” he said in the statement.
Controversy erupted last week when his announcement as a speaker led to the perception that he was headlining the event. Amid the backlash from many feminists, the Women’s March, the group organizing the convention, clarified that U.S. Representative Maxine Waters of California was actually selected to be the headlining speaker, but that the way the announcement was handled led to confusion. The perception that Sanders was headlining the event, however, was a decidedly polarizing idea. Women in the World ran an informal Twitter poll asking where people stood on the initial reports that Sanders would headline the convention and the nearly 6,900 people who weighed in were sharply divided.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.