WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders' latest addition to his 2020 presidential campaign is drawing criticism after a report alleged the new staffer, an investigative reporter, had been for months secretly advising the campaign while bashing other Democrats running for the White House — a charge Sanders' campaign denies.
The report in The Atlantic notes David Sirota, an investigative reporter focused on politics and money, had been working for months for Sanders' campaign before his role was officially announced on Tuesday. Sanders' campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, told USA TODAY that Sirota started in an unofficial capacity on Feb. 20, less than one month ago.
Sirota was brought on as a speechwriter and senior adviser but had been working in the role for a period before that, according to The Atlantic. The publication noted while helping Sanders' campaign, Sirota had blasted other Democrats vying for the White House. Most of the examples cited by the publication were before Sirota started secretly advising Sanders' campaign.
After being contacted by The Atlantic, the publication notes more than 20,000 of Sirota's tweets were deleted. Several tweets in January and early February to his account, which has about 125,000 followers, berated Sen. Kamala Harris for "retreating for Medicare for All" and said Sen. Cory Booker had "attacked the Obama campaign & voted with the GOP" on a bill regarding the price of medicine. Both are also running for president.
The Atlantic also pointed out Sirota, who worked for Sanders years ago when Sanders was a member of the House, authored several pieces in The Guardian that were critical of Beto O'Rourke, who had not yet entered the presidential race.
The Guardian said in a statement to the Washington Post that Sirota stopped writing for the publication after being approached by the Sanders campaign and his last story was authored in December 2018.
One of his pieces in The Guardian examined votes taken by O'Rourke when he served in Congress, finding that O'Rourke, who entered the race last week, had frequently voted in support for Republican-led legislation. A second piece was an opinion column titled "Beto O'Rourke is the new Obama. And that's the last thing we need."
"Now, he is Washington’s version of Elvis Presley on Ed Sullivan, only the screaming teeny-boppers are Beltway politicos: one rainmaker touted him as 'Obama, but white,' a Wall Street-funded group called Third Way declared that 'we are big Beto fans' and a former Obama aide penned an entire love letter touting O’Rourke 2020, without even once mentioning where the Texas congressman stands on a single legislative issue," the piece reads.
Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager, told The Atlantic that Sirota had been helping the campaign in an advisory role before being brought on officially Tuesday. Shakir said it was a trial period to try out Sirota since Sanders prefers to write his own speeches.
Sirota told The Atlantic that his Twitter purge was the result of an "autodeleter that periodically and automatically deletes tweets." He said he started "doing this many months ago."
On Facebook, Sirota told his nearly 10,000 followers that he was taking a role within Sanders' campaign and said it was an opportunity he could not pass up.
"I believe journalism is an extremely important and necessary line of work, and I will miss it (and one day in the future, it is possible I may return to it)," Sirota wrote on Facebook. "When Bernie asked me to join his campaign, I felt I could not turn that request down, because I genuinely believe that the future of our country, our planet and our children are at stake in this election."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bernie Sanders hires former reporter who secretly advised campaign, deleted 20K tweets: report