Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders apologized to rival Hillary Clinton for his campaign’s unauthorized access to her voter data, quickly seeking to defuse a brewing scandal.
“Not only do I apologize to Secretary Clinton … I want to apologize to my supporters,” Sanders said Saturday at the outset of the Democratic debate in Manchester, N.H. “This is not the type of campaign we run.”
A software glitch earlier this week gave the Sanders campaign brief access to the Clinton campaign’s voter information, prompting the Democratic National Committee to suspend the Sanders team’s access to the database. The campaign responded with a lawsuit alleging unfair treatment.
Sanders’ access has been restored, but the furor continued in the hours leading up to the debate. The Clinton campaign accused the Vermont senator’s staff of outright theft, and the Sanders camp accused the Democratic establishment of actively attempting to undermine his campaign.
In the debate, the Vermont senator addressed the problem head-on. He said this was the second occasion when a software problem exposed Clinton’s proprietary data to his team. On that earlier occasion, two months ago, his campaign alerted the DNC and its vendor and the problem was quietly addressed.
Earlier this week, the same thing happened, Sanders said, but his staff “did the wrong thing — they looked at that information.”
Sanders said he fired one campaign staffer who inappropriately accessed Clinton’s data and pledged to conduct an internal investigation and fire anyone else who did the same. However, he described as “egregious” and “arbitrary” the DNC’s decision to shut off access to the campaign’s own information, and called for an investigation to determine that his own data hasn’t been compromised.
Clinton quickly accepted the apology, returning a gesture from an earlier debate, in which Sanders similarly dismissed questions about the former secretary of state’s private email server.
“We should move on,” said Clinton. “Because I don’t think the American people are all that interested in this.”
Political pundits had expected verbal warfare over the scandal. Even before the candidates stepped on the debate stage, the two camps began exchanging heated rhetoric online.
The Clinton campaign published a statement that lashed out at what it described as a violation of its hard work. The campaign outlined four questions for Sanders to answer, including why his team claimed not to have stored proprietary Clinton information when activity logs seemed to suggest otherwise, and why Sanders senior adviser Tad Devine described the data breach as “a mistake” when staffers conducted 25 targeted searches of his opponent’s data.
Devine fired back on Twitter, linking to Clinton calling her vote to authorize the Iraq war a “mistake.”
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.