MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Seeking to quell a burgeoning controversy, Bernie Sanders apologized to Hillary Clinton and his own supporters Saturday night for a data breach that allowed his campaign to access her team’s valuable information about voters.
“This is not the type of campaign that we run,” Sanders said in the opening moments of the third Democratic debate. Still, he slammed the Democratic National Committee for briefly cutting off his campaign’s access to its own voter files, calling it an “egregious act.”
Clinton quickly accepted the apology from Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who is her closest rival in the Democratic race.
“We should move on because I don’t think the American people are interested in this,” said Clinton, the former secretary of state.
Indeed, the debate moved quickly to national security and gun control, as the candidates tackled questions on terrorism in the wake of the attack in San Bernardino, California. The shootings, as well as earlier attacks in Paris, have pushed national security to the forefront of the 2016 White House race.
Still, the data breach appeared likely to overshadow the candidates’ policy discussions in some voters’ minds. The incident sparked fierce reactions from Sanders and Clinton staffers, a sharp shift from what until now had been a relatively civil Democratic primary, particularly compared to the unpredictable Republican race.
The Democratic National Committee maintains a trove of voter information. The campaigns can add to that database — information they use to target voters and anticipate what issues might motivate them.
In Clinton’s case, campaign manager Robby Mook said that information included “fundamental parts of our strategy.” Clinton aides said four Sanders workers reviewed in information in 25 separate searches that included details on voter turnout and candidate preferences, revealing the Clinton campaign’s approach in early voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
Sanders’ campaign fired a worker involved in the data breach, and campaign manager Jeff Weaver admitted that the worker’s actions were “unacceptable.” But the campaign rejected the allegations the Sanders team stole data, and it sued the DNC to regain access to the voter information.
Sanders’ campaign said its access was restored early Saturday morning.
Clinton and Sanders were joined on stage in New Hampshire by former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has struggled to be a factor in the race. O’Malley was aggressive early in seeking to play a role in the debate, repeatedly talking over moderators.
On national security, the candidates all issued their prescriptions for fighting the Islamic State group, none of them offering policy solutions significantly different from that of the Obama administration. Clinton reiterated her three-pronged plan to launch an aggressive U.S.-led campaign backing Arab and Kurdish ground forces. She also stressed a need for more intelligence sharing.
All three candidates stressed working more closely with Muslim-American communities to tackle radicalism at home.
Sanders sought to stand out on foreign policy by noting his anti-Iraq war stance in 2003. He said he does not support any “unilateral military action” but rather a coalition in which the U.S. works hand in hand with Muslim nations to fight the radical militant group.