WASHINGTON (AP) — Elizabeth Warren said Monday that fellow Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told her he didn’t think a woman could win the White House during a private meeting between the two in 2018.

The Massachusetts senator said in a statement that during the two-hour meeting to discuss the 2020 election, “among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.”

“I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry,” Warren continued. “I’m in this race to talk about what’s broken in this country and how to fix it -- and that’s what I’m going to continue to do. I know Bernie is in the race for the same reason. We have been friends and allies in this fight for a long time, and I have no doubt we will continue to work together to defeat Donald Trump and put our government on the side of the people.”

CNN first reported Sanders’ comment earlier Monday, based on the accounts of anonymous people with knowledge of the meeting. That drew a swift and strong denial from Sanders, a Vermont senator, who said, “It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn’t win.”

Sanders aides then accused Warren’s campaign of leaking what they said was an inaccurate description of what was said during the meeting.

That helped prompt Warren’s statement hours later. Sanders’ camp offered no immediate comment to Warren’s statement, but earlier in the day, the senator’s campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, called the notion that Sanders might have said a woman couldn’t be elected president “a lie.”

The increasingly testy clash comes on the eve of a Democratic presidential debate in Iowa, the last before that state kicks off the Democratic primary with its leadoff caucuses on Feb. 3. Warren and Sanders, both of whom support universal health care, tuition-free public college and raising the minimum wage, have for months competed for their party’s most liberal wing while refraining from attacking each other.

But following a Politico story over the weekend that reported the Sanders campaign had instructed some volunteers to characterize Warren as a candidate for wealthy and well-educated voters in conversations with undecided voters, Warren issued a rare critique of her opponent. She said she was “disappointed” Sanders was instructing staffers to “trash” her.

That set the stage for Monday’s hours of additional squabbling -- and may well spell a lively debate on Tuesday.

Stephanie Taylor and Adam Green, co-founders of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has at times praised both Warren and Sanders, released its own statement Monday night saying they “believe that a back-and-forth about this private meeting is counter-productive for progressives.”

“In this pivotal moment of the campaign, progressives must work together to defeat Donald Trump,” Taylor and Green said.

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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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