PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Angry Democrats heckled outgoing party chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz with boos and cries of “shame!” on Monday as the party tried to move past an embarrassing email controversy and heal divisions as this week’s national convention began — with much bigger demonstrations than the Republican convention and much higher temperatures as the region copes with an oppressive heat wave.
In her first remarks since announcing her resignation on Sunday, the Florida congresswoman struggled to be heard in her Monday morning address before her home-state delegation. Some delegates, apparently disappointed supporters of her primary rival, Bernie Sanders, jeered and waved signs reading “Thanks for the ‘help,’ Debbie,” and more simply, “E-mail.”
Her supporters pushed back, standing on chairs and yelling at the Sanders people to step back or sit down.
Wasserman Schultz tried to shout over the raucous crowd, saying, “We have to make sure that we move together in a unified way!”
The scene was a troubling display of tumult for Democrats who awoke Monday to a firestorm over hacked party emails. The correspondence appeared to show top officials at the supposedly neutral Democratic National Committee favoring Hillary Clinton in the presidential primaries against Sanders.
The embarrassing emails, posted by WikiLeaks over the weekend, have ripped open the primary wounds and exposed a rift that threatens to undermine Democrats’ attempt to display four days of focus on putting Clinton in the White House.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was chosen to gavel in the full convention on Monday in place of Wasserman Schultz.
The party announced Monday it would kick off its convention with speeches from some of its most popular figures. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a progressive favorite, would deliver the convention keynote. Sanders and first lady Michelle Obama will also take the stage.
The White House is pitching Michelle Obama’s speech Monday night as a barometer of party unity.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest says he’s confident Mrs. Obama will be warmly received at the Democratic National Convention. He says the first lady will give voice to the values and agenda that the Obama administration has pursued over the past seven years.
The White House says Mrs. Obama plans to talk about the role the president plays in the lives of children, shaping their values and aspirations, and why she believes Clinton is the leader with the ability to best fill that role.
Sanders: Go with Clinton
Seeking to avoid a televised display of disunity, Bernie Sanders on Monday urged supporters to line up behind Democrat Hillary Clinton and claimed victory in deposing and sidelining a top party official.
Some of his supporters jeered in disapproval, indicating turmoil at this week’s Democratic National Convention won’t end with the departure of the party chairman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.
Speaking to his convention delegates, just hours before the Democrats opened a convention to nominate his primary rival, the Vermont senator tried to settle roiling tensions between his supporters and the party rank-and-file lining up behind Clinton.
A fresh email controversy, appearing to show bias by party officials against Sanders, has made that task harder just as the national spotlight turns to the Democrats’ rally behind Clinton.
“Brothers and sisters, this is the real world that we live in,” Sanders told his audience, raising his hand in an effort to quiet them. Republican nominee Donald Trump is “a bully and demagogue,” he said, who must not win the White House.
The remarks were met with boos and grumbling from supporters clearly not ready to give up the fight for what he calls his “political revolution.” Sanders tried to persuade them they had already won by helping to create what he called the “most progressive Democratic platform in the history of the party.” And he, too, celebrated the ouster of Wasserman Schultz after the email hack.
“Her resignation opens up the possibility of new leaders at the top of the Democratic Party that will stand with working people,” he said.
As Sanders spoke, Wasserman Schultz announced she would not gavel in the convention, recognition that her presence onstage would only showcase Democrats’ deep divisions. The Florida congresswoman was greeted with boos Monday morning by delegates who would certainly have repeated the spectacle.
Clinton: No comparison
Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager says there’s no comparison between the disunity at the Republican convention and the state of the Democratic Party.
Robby Mook is noting that no living Republican presidents attended the GOP convention, nor did the governor of Ohio, which hosted the gathering. He says in contrast, “Everybody is actually showing up at our convention and they’re endorsing Hillary Clinton.”
He sidestepped questions about the role of ousted Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s role at the convention. He says it was “her decision” to step down at the end of the convention.
Mook spoke to reporters at a Bloomberg breakfast.
The kickoff lineup had long been intended to appeal to the party’s restive liberal wing, but that task has become unexpectedly urgent by the trove of 19,000 leaked emails.
Clinton campaign officials pointed the finger for the hack at Russian military intelligence agencies. They accused Russia of trying to meddle in the U.S. election and favoring GOP nominee Donald Trump.
“We don’t have information right now about that, but what we have is a kind of bromance going on between Vladimir Putin and Trump which is distinct from this leak,” Clinton adviser John Podesta said in an MSNBC interview.
Trump dismissed the suggestion in a tweet: “The joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC emails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me.”
Republicans relished Democrats’ pre-convention tumult, just days after they bumped and bumbled through their convention, unsuccessfully trying to paper over their own division. Trump declared on Twitter: “The Dems Convention is cracking up.”
In one of the largest rallies planned for the day, a pro-Bernie Sanders group walked across the Ben Franklin Bridge, which connects Camden, New Jersey, with Philadelphia.
The demonstrations, largely driven by Sanders supporters, have been peaceful so far.
Resistance to Clinton was on display during a demonstration Sunday as many thronged to a main thoroughfare and chanted, “Hell no, DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary.” Still many delegates, and Sanders himself, said they planned to fall in line, mindful of the Republican alternative.
Ohio’s Michael Skindell, a Sanders delegate, said Monday he plans to “strongly support the nominee of the party.”
DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile, a veteran Democratic strategist who will lead the party on an interim basis after the convention, warned more leaked emails, and more apologies, could be coming.
Trump ‘trash talker’
Hillary Clinton is offering a scathing critique of rival Donald Trump’s foreign policy, saying she “doesn’t understand people who trash talk about America.”
Clinton slammed many of Trump’s positions without mentioning his name. She vowed to stand by American allies, fight dictators and listen to the advice of military officials.
Clinton is speaking at the annual conference of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a non-profit that supports veterans, during a campaign swing through Charlotte, North Carolina.
Recent polling has shown active duty troops backing Trump over Clinton by more than a two to one margin.
Clinton noted her role as the first female presidential nominee of a major political party, saying history-making position “takes a little getting used to even for me.” The statement was unusual acknowledgement by Clinton that there may be some voters, particularly within the military, that take issue with a female commander-in-chief.
Kaine speaking Spanish
Tim Kaine was to get another chance to show off his Spanish skills in an interview with Spanish-language network Telemundo.
The network says Hillary Clinton’s pick for her running mate will discuss immigration reform, the leak of Democratic National Committee emails and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, among other topics, in a Monday night interview.
Kaine is fluent in Spanish thanks in part to a year in Honduras as a Catholic missionary before graduating from law school. The Clinton campaign is working hard to woo Hispanic voters and Kaine also opened his remarks in Spanish on Sunday when he was formally announced as Clinton’s vice presidential pick.
The heat wave in Philadelphia is not going away anytime soon. It will hit a peak Monday with temperatures in the city possibly reaching 97 degrees but feeling like 105, according to the National Weather Service.
Officials said volunteers will be handing out water and the city will provide misting tents for demonstrators all week.
More than 5,000 delegates are among the 50,000 people set to attend the four-day convention, which is expected to culminate with Clinton being named the party’s official nominee for president.
Associated Press writers Chad Day and Hope Yen in Washington, Alan Suderman in Richmond, Virginia, and Alex Sanz and Megan Trimble in Philadelphia contributed to this report.