Democratic candidates shout, squabble in chaotic South Carolina debate (live updates)

It was a no-holds-barred slugfest on Tuesday as seven Democratic candidates clashed on stage in Charleston, South Carolina, on issues ranging from health care to marijuana to who would make the best president.

While former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a common and easy target in last week’s debate in Nevada, it was front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who was tested by moderators and fellow candidates.

In an evening that saw pointed cross-talk and almost constant interruptions, Sanders was criticized for his stance on Medicare for all, gun control and his comments this weekend that seemed to praise Cuba’s late communist ruler Fidel Castro.

Another thing Sanders heard, which he had not to any degree before, were boos from the Charleston audience.

In a reprise of last week’s debate, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren went after Bloomberg again asking him to release women from non-disclosure agreements so they can tell the story of their complaints against Bloomberg’s company.

Bloomberg said he had done everything Warren had asked and he was not sure what else she wanted. Warren said she wanted to hear from the woman Bloomberg was alleged to have told to “kill” her baby by having an abortion.

Bloomberg denied he said that to an employee.

Former Vice President Joe Biden complained to the moderators about the combative nature of the debate, wondering aloud why the rules on the time a person has to answer a question were not being respected.

In one exchange, Biden took on billionaire Tom Steyer over Steyer’s investment in a company that runs prisons saying the company had no health care plan for the inmates.

Steyer said he sold the shares in the company when he found out it was being poorly run.

Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was Sander’s most vocal critic, challenging him on nearly every point Sanders made. He warned that nominating Sanders to be the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer could likely cause the party to lose the House as well as the presidency.“They are running away from your platform as fast as they possibly can," Buttigieg said to Sanders.

Here are the live updates from Tuesday’s debate:

Live updates

The debate is over

10:02 p.m. Feb. 25, 2020: After Norah O’Donnell tries to close out the debate and is told by Gayle King there is one more break for the network, the two come back and actually end the debate.

The last question

9:55 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: The last question was in two parts: what is the biggest misconception about you, and what is your motto?

Biden gives his motto about being no better than anyone else, then says he promises to put an African American woman on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Klobuchar says she is not boring. Warren quotes the gospel of Matthew. Buttigieg also quotes the Bible.

Sanders says he is not as radical as people think.

Sanders on the Middle East

9:46 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: Sanders, when asked about the Middle East, calls Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a racist. He said that the U.S. should focus on “protecting the independence and security of Israel, but you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people.”

He would consider moving the US embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv. Trump moved it to Jerusalem.

President Trump tweets

Sanders is asked about support for Chinese communists

9:36 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: Sanders says he does not support authoritarian leaders, despite his recent comments on Fidel Castro.

He and Buttigieg talk over each other as they argue.

Axelrod gives his opinion on Biden

The first question on coronavirus

9:26 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: Klobuchar is asked whether she would close borders to Americans who have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Klobuchar pivots to say helping infected Americans is more important. Klobuchar says it’s serious and people need to be aware.

“I’m not gonna give you my website, I’m going to give the CDC’s site, it’s,” she said.

What to do with marijuana

9:11 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: Sanders vows to legalize marijuana on the first day of his presidency, and to set up a program to help individuals get into the pot business and keep big industry from selling pot.

Bloomberg is a bit more cautious with his answer, saying he wants to see more research, but thinks pot should be legal, as well.

What about those sugary drinks?

9:10 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: Bloomberg is asked about his tax on sugary drinks and ban on smoking in buildings. Bloomberg said the tax on drinks was right for New York City, but it may not be what is best for all.

“What’s right for New York City isn’t right for every other city, otherwise we’d have a naked cowboy in every city,” Bloomberg joked, referring to the “naked cowboy” who sings on the streets of New York.

Bloomberg touted the ban on smoking in public areas while he was mayor, arguing that it had helped improve the health of people living in the city.

What did he buy?

9:08 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: Donald Trump Jr (and others) point out that Bloomberg started to say he “bought” House and Senate seats.

Remember the rules

9:04 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: The unruliness of the debate continues. Biden asks: “Can we just speak up when we want to?"

Buttigieg goes after Sanders on the Senate filibuster

Gun control

8:44 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: Biden looks at the camera, points his finger and tells the NRA he is coming after them. The crowd cheers again. Biden talks about his record of strengthening gun control legislation.

Sanders is asked about his record on voting against strengthening gun control. Sanders initially tried to pivot to criticizing Biden for votes on trade deals and is booed.

“I have cast thousands of votes, including bad votes,” Sanders said. “That was a bad vote.” He says he has made bad votes, but he also has a “D-” vote rating from the NRA.

Bloomberg is cheered when he talks about Moms Demand Action, a gun-control group that has six million members.

Buttigieg says Sanders does not believe in gun control and his votes show that.

Biden takes a swipe at Steyer over prisons

The Warren-Bloomberg exchange

The mood turns ugly

8:32 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: The candidates are yelling at each other and speaking over other’s answers. Amy Klobuchar says she likes Bernie, but he is not the one to lead the ticket.

Warren goes after Bloomberg again

8:25 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020:Warren goes after Bloomberg again – “The core of the Democratic party will never trust him.”Bloomberg answers, “All those sideshows the senator likes to bring up doesn’t mean a thing,” he said.

Warren then brings up the story that Bloomberg told a pregnant employee to “kill” her baby by abortion. Bloomberg says he never said it. Warren continues by saying that Bloomberg should release women who worked for him from nondisclosure agreements about harassment in the workplace.

Warren continues pressing and Bloomberg says he has released women from nondisclosure agreements and will not use them in the future.“We’ve done everything she asked for,” Bloomberg said of Warren’s comments from last week’s debate.

It starts off with a bang

8:10 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: Sanders gets the first question. It is about how low the unemployment rate is. Sanders says, yes, it is good for billionaires, not so good for the average American.

Bloomberg jumps in and says to Sanders that Russia would love to see him elected.

Sanders says he wants no part of Russia.

Warren says Sanders is winning because he is a progressive, but she would be a better president because a progressive agenda requires details and she has proven she can do the work.

She says Bernie’s team “trashed her.”

Buttigieg says chaos is “coming our way.” Imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Bernie Sanders vs. Donald Trump,” Buttigieg says. “ a majority of the American people want to be

Sanders’s solutions are right, Steyer says, but “I don’t like his methods.” He says he does not believe the government needs to step in to run private enterprise.

Biden reminds people that “Bernie voted five times against the Brady Bill,” a bill that strengthened gun legislation. Biden is cheered loudly.

The debate is beginning

8:01 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: The candidates are on stage and the debate is beginning.

Who is asking the questions?

7:55 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: The moderators for tonight’s debate are Norah O’Donnell, Gayle King, Margaret Brennan, Major Garrett and Bill Whitaker.

Who will Clyburn support

7:45 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: Influential South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn says he will endorse a candidate after tonight’s debate. Many believe he will back Biden, a long-time friend.

However, Clyburn has also praised Steyer and acknowledged the money spent in South Carolina by the billionaire.

“I think Steyer is doing an incredible job,” Clyburn said recently. “I’ve always said, money is a mother’s milk of politics. He has money and is spending it. And so I think that will always make a difference.’’

One place where Steyer is spending money is with Clyburn’s daughter. According to The New York Times, Steyer has been paying rent on his headquarters in Columbia, South Carolina, to a company owned by Jennifer Clyburn Reed, Clyburn’s daughter.

Bloomberg on taking on Trump

Who is in tonight?

7:36 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: Seven Democratic candidates qualified for the debate on Tuesday.

They are former Vice President Joe Biden; Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City; former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.; Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont; Tom Steyer, a billionaire businessman; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Steyer’s in, but with controversy

7:25 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: Billionaire Tom Steyer will be on stage tonight. He made the cut by gaining ground in the polls in South Carolina.

According to a New York Times story, Steyer is taking heat from some who accuse him of trying to buy the South Carolina primary.

From the story: “His spending has not been without controversy. Allegations of vote-buying involving Mr. Steyer cropped up on social media last week, after the pastor of Brookland Baptist Church, one of the largest black churches in the state, announced during Sunday services that the church planned to apply for a grant from a charitable foundation established by Mr. Steyer and (his wife) Ms. Kat Taylor.”

Sanders on Castro

7:10 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: Sen. Bernie Sanders will likely face criticism tonight for comments about the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro implementing a literacy program during his regime. The comments drew angry responses, especially from some within the Cuban community in Florida.

In an interview with "60 Minutes" aired on Sunday, Sanders said that it was “unfair to simply say everything is bad" about Castro and the communist government he oversaw for decades. Those in Florida and elsewhere reminded Sanders that Castro was known for killing his rivals and imprisoning those who spoke out against his government.

Given a chance Monday to explain his remarks, Sanders instead doubled down on his position in a CNN town hall. “Truth is truth," Sanders said.

Pete gets the nod

6:48 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: The State, South Carolina’s second-biggest paper, has endorsed Pete Buttigieg for the Democratic nomination, saying his “aspirational yet realistic plans” make him the best choice for nominee.

Live updates are beginning

6:30 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2020: Welcome to live updates! The debate will begin at 8 p.m. ET and last for about two hours. Seven Democratic candidates will take part. If it’s anything like last week’s debate, you may want to buckle your seatbelt.

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