Sanders to visit Puerto Rico, skip Women's Convention

Sanders to visit Puerto Rico, skip Women's Convention
© Camille Fine

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Finance: Treasury mulls sanctions relief for Russian aluminum firm | Trump floats tying NAFTA talks to border security | 14 states hit record-low unemployment Kamala Harris will no longer accept corporate PAC money Judd Gregg: Who wins with Paul Ryan's departure? MORE (I-Vt.) announced on Thursday he would travel to Puerto Rico to meet with officials in the wake of Hurricane Maria instead of addressing the Women's Convention next week.

“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," Sanders said in a statement. 

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"The U.S. Congress cannot turn its back on the millions of people in Puerto Rico who, four weeks after the hurricane, are still without electricity, food and running water," he continued. 

The announcement comes after the Women's Convention faced fierce backlash for choosing Sanders to headline the opening day of the conference.

“We were grateful that Senator Sanders had accepted our invitation to continue his longstanding record of support and allyship for women leaders. It is unfortunate that Senator Sanders will no longer be able to join us at the Women’s Convention next week, but the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico - which is being exacerbated by the inaction of our federal government - is a critical matter," the Women's March said in a statement to The Hill.
 
"We understand his leadership is needed in Puerto Rico and, as always, we deeply appreciate his commitment to communities in need. We look forward to working with him on key issues including Medicare for All, which will continue to be an important topic of our Convention program.”
 
Various women's groups, as well as female media figures such as actress Debra Messing and MSNBC host Joy Reid questioned the decision to have Sanders deliver the convention's opening speech.

"This announcement sends the wrong message to women everywhere," EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock said in a statement earlier this month, while the Center for American Progress’s Neera Tanden called it “pretty amazing” and said she was unfollowing the organization.

The event is being organized by the Women's March, which spearheaded massive protests in Washington and cities across the country the day after President Trump's inauguration. 

The convention is aimed at bringing together politicians and activists for "workshops, strategy sessions, [and] inspiring forums" as they gear up for the 2018 midterm elections.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) will deliver the opening remarks at the convention in Detroit. 

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) will also speak at the event.

Updated: 7:42 p.m.