Robinson Meyer, a writer for The Atlantic, coined the term "Bernie bro" in an October 17, 2015 article to describe a phenomenon in which some young, white, progressive men were "hectoring their friends" on Facebook to support Sanders.
In the article, Meyer characterized the Bernie Bro as "male... white; well-educated; middle-class (or, delicately, 'upper middle-class'); and aware of NPR podcasts and jangly bearded bands." Furthermore, according to Meyer, "[t]he Berniebro asserts that this country needs highly principled, pie-in-the-sky progressive policies, regardless of how likely they are to become legislation. The Berniebro supports free college for all and a $15 minimum wage.... The Berniebro voted for Barack Obama in 2012. And 2008, if the Berniebro was old enough to vote." Meyer's story was shared 28,000 times on Facebook, bringing the term to public attention.
USA Today describes Bernie Bros as "the unsanctioned shock troops of Bernie Sanders' vaunted online army, digital rogues who've plagued Hillary Clinton's presidential bid and embarrassed Sanders' campaign."
The Wall Street Journal described the Bros as generally "white, male" Sanders supporters who troll Clinton supporters, "leaving vitriolic comments on social media accounts and created memes showing Mrs. Clinton as trying too hard to be cool."
MTV correspondent Jamil Smith described these people as engaging in "trolling, misogyny, and 'hipster racism.'" Washington Post reporter Janell Ross described some pro-Sanders online activists as "angry people who sometimes engage in or embrace bigotry," and believed they demonstrated an attitude she called "offensively dismissive, superior, let-us-tell-you-black-voters-what-you-need-and-how-you-should-vote commentary from some subset of Sanders supporters."
Sanders campaign response
In a February 2016 interview with CNN's State of the Union, Sanders criticized "Bernie Bros" for their sexist attacks against rival Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. "It's disgusting. [...] Anybody who is supporting me and who is doing sexist things, we don't want them. I don't want them. That is not what this campaign is about."
Clinton campaign response
In February, Brian Fallon, Clinton's press secretary, characterized the Bernie Bros as "nasty and vitriolic." Bill Clinton accused the Bernie Bros as carrying out "vicious trolling and attacks that are literally too profane ... not to mention sexist."
Online reaction to the perceived Bernie Bro phenomenon from Clinton supporters ranged from organizational action to the production of memes to counter media narratives surrounding the campaign. Bros4Hillary, an advocacy group touting inclusiveness and progressive ideals as their central tenets, was created with the goal of providing a direct response to the perceived misogynistic and white nationalist overtures espoused by Hillary Clinton's opponents. Following the 2016 presidential election, the group was renamed Bros4America, and their mission statement condemns the "misogyny and white male privilege exemplified by the ‘BernieBros’ movement".
In May 2016, historian Joshua M. Zeitz suggested that "Bernie's Bros" might follow a pattern seen in the 1968 and 1980 elections in which Eugene McCarthy and Ted Kennedy won large numbers of votes from angry Democratic voters who, when their candidate failed to win the Party's nomination, switched and voted for the Republican in November.
Leah McElrath wrote in 2017 that the sexist responses on Twitter purportedly from male Sanders supporters may have been actually Russian bots intended to disrupt the election, a suggestion supported in part by testimony at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on Russian election interference.
In an interview with Thom Hartmann, state Senator Nina Turner (a former surrogate for Senator Bernie Sanders) affirmed that she was uncomfortable with the term; "I just think it is really hyped by the Clinton campaign. I mean, both candidates have people who really, really support them and sometimes in ways that are not nice. But it's the same thing, if people want to research this, it's the same thing that the Clinton campaign did to President, then Senator, Obama. I think they were called 'Obama Boys.' So it's really the same stuff recycled that there are a group of men out there that are rabid and they're sexist and they're really against Secretary Clinton."
In January 2016, The Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald called the Bernie Bro narrative a "cheap campaign tactic" and a "journalistic disgrace." He pointed to the millions of women who supported Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton with "one has to be willing to belittle the views and erase the existence of a huge number of American women to wield this 'Bernie Bro' smear." He also pointed to the lack of evidence for the phenomenon outside of the typical vitriol associated with online forums. He summarized the narrative's purpose as follows: "The goal is to inherently delegitimize all critics of Hillary Clinton by accusing them of, or at least associating them with, sexism, thus distracting attention away from Clinton’s policy views, funding, and political history and directing it toward the online behavior of anonymous, random, isolated people on the internet claiming to be Sanders supporters."
Nathan Wellman wrote in U.S. Uncut that users of the term "are essentially erasing the contributions of women and people of color to the Bernie Sanders campaign to propagate their own narrative, rendering them as invisible people. This is one of the oldest forms of violence perpetuated by white people of privilege."
- 2016 Democratic National Committee email leak
- Social media in the United States presidential election, 2016
- Bro (subculture)
- Meyer, Robinson (October 17, 2015). "Here Comes the Berniebro". The Atlantic. Atlantic Media. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- Meyer, Robinson (October 17, 2015). "Here Comes the Berniebro Look, there is a systemic crisis occurring. On Facebook". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Hess, Amanda (February 3, 2016). "Everyone Is Wrong About the Bernie Bros; How a necessary critique of leftist sexism deteriorated into a dumb flame war". Slate. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Meyer, Robinson (February 5, 2016). "It's Not Just Berniebros I coined the term—now I've come back to fix what I started". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Andrews, Natalie (February 8, 2016). "Bernie Sanders on Sexist Commenters: I Don't Want That Support". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Hampson, Brian (May 12, 2016). "Hillary Clinton, no fan of 'Bernie Bros,' could use their energy vs. Trump". USA Today. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Halper, Evan (15 April 2016). "Sanders' supporters are lashing out, but here's how they might be hurting his campaign". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
- Smith, Jamil (January 30, 2016). "The Sanders campaign knows the 'Bernie Bros' are a problem". The New Republic. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Ross, Janell (March 10, 2016). "Bernie Sanders's most vitriolic supporters really test the meaning of the word 'progressive'". Washington Post. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Bereznak, Alyssa (February 9, 2016). "The Bernie Bros rule the Internet". Yahoo Politics. Yahoo!. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- Shastry, Anjali (February 7, 2016). "Sanders addresses 'Bernie Bros,' says he doesn't want support from sexists". The Washington Times. The Washington Times, LLC. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- Karnie, Annie (February 7, 2016). "Bill Clinton batters and blasts Bernie Sanders". Politico. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Mohajer, Alex (2017-01-07). "In Politics, 2016 Was The Year of the Bro". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-07-06.
- "Bros4Hillary". Bros4Hillary. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
- Mohajer, Alex (2016-12-31). "Bros4America Mission Statement". Retrieved 2017-07-09.
- Zeitz, Joshua (25 May 2016). "Why Bernie's Bros Might Go for Trump". Politico. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
- McElrath, Leah "Watching the hearings, I learned my “Bernie bro” harassers may have been Russian bots", Shareblue, April 2, 2017. Accessed 4 September 2017.
- U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Hearings, June 21, 2017
- Turner, Nina (27 May 2016). "Great Minds p2: Nina Turner - Are Bernie Bros Real?". Conversations With Great Minds. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- Greenwald, Glenn. "The "Bernie Bros" Narrative: a Cheap Campaign Tactic Masquerading as Journalism and Social Activism Glenn Greenwald Jan. 31 2016, 8:42 a.m." The Intercept. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
- Wellmen, Nathan (29 January 2016). "The 'Bernie Bro' is a Media Myth. It Needs to Die". U.S. Uncut. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
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- Cogan, Marin (April 30, 2015). "Daily Intelligencer: Bernie Sanders Is Officially Running for President – That Doesn't Mean You Can Ask Him About Hillary Clinton". New York. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
- Kane, Paul; Rucker, Philip (April 30, 2015). "An unlikely contender, Sanders takes on 'billionaire class' in 2016 bid". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- Rappeport, Alan (April 29, 2015). "Bernie Sanders Announces He Is Running for President". The New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- "'Bernie Bros' controversy enters Democratic race". MSNBC. March 13, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
- Shepherd, Kate (February 15, 2016). "The overblown 'Bernie Bros' phenomenon says more about social media than Bernie Sanders". Chicago Reader. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
- Hess, Amanda (February 3, 2016). "Bernie Bros Are Bad. The Conversation Around Them Is Worse". Slate. Retrieved May 19, 2016.