The 89-year-old, who was cajoled into running an almost exclusively online campaign by teenagers David Oks and Henry Williams, filmed an endorsement video for Sanders on Sunday. Gravel spoke with Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir before coming to the decision to make a formal endorsement and is planning to speak with Sanders himself in the coming days.
Neither Shakir nor a spokesperson for Sanders responded to a request for comment from The Daily Beast over the weekend.
According to Oks, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) campaign initially tried to seek Gravel’s endorsement. Oks said they tried to “slowball” the Gabbard campaign but Gabbard eventually got in touch with Gravel. Ultimately, they thought it would be more beneficial for the Alaska Democrat to back Sanders, both because he has a better shot of winning the nomination and because of Gabbard’s divisiveness among some on the left.
“We thought that a Bernie endorsement would be the best move,” Oks explained. “We like Tulsi. Tulsi is better than the vast majority of the candidates, but we knew that Tulsi is most likely going to be dropping out in a few weeks.” Gabbard has given no indication she intends to drop out of the race and, in fact, has crossed the donor threshold for the next debate. Gabbard’s campaign did not return a request for comment.
Gravel, who is perhaps best known for putting the Pentagon Papers in the public record, has previously praised both Sanders and Gabbard. "In my mind, the ideal group would be either Bernie as president or Tulsi as president and Bernie as vice president,” he said in a May interview. Additionally, according to Oks, the former senator has spoken with Marianne Williamson, the author and presidential candidate, and is in talks to speak with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Oks added that Andrew Yang, the entrepreneur turned presidential candidate, has Gravel’s number and “is free to call whenever.”
Earlier this week, Gravel’s Twitter account, managed by the teenagers, announced that the campaign was formally closing up shop. They had received the required 65,000 donors necessary to appear in the recent July debate in Detroit. But because the Democratic National Committee capped the number of candidates at 20, Gravel was kept off the stage. In July, they used some of the money they raised to get an anti-Joe Biden ad on MSNBC and some local Iowa networks.
The staffers running the campaign are planning on establishing a leftist think tank called the Gravel Institute and donating remaining funds to charity. Oks and Williams plan to do a fellowship at the leftist publication Jacobin.
In a video posted to the Twitter account on Tuesday morning, Gravel formally backed Sanders.
Williams released a separate statement in conjunction with the endorsement noting that the campaign has a lot of respect for other candidates in the field as well.
“We really like Tulsi Gabbard, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang,” Williams said. “We love Bernie but have such a deep respect for each of them, despite any disagreements we might have. We hope that they all find their way into government at some point.”
That statement also noted that Gravel personally respected Gabbard’s anti-war positions and quoted him as saying she “would be an excellent president of the United States, or vice president, whichever the circumstances permit.”
This story has been updated to include the actual release of the video endorsement, which was posted Tuesday morning.