PHILADELPHIA >> Democratic National Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Sunday afternoon that she would quit as head of the party this week, after leaked emails appeared to show bias against Bernie Sanders during his primary challenge to Hillary Clinton.
“I know that electing Hillary Clinton as our next president is critical for America’s future,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “I look forward to serving as a surrogate for her campaign in Florida and across the country to ensure her victory.”
Wasserman Schultz, a member of the U.S. House from Florida, had been under pressure to resign. The controversy threatened turmoil on the eve of the party convention in Philadelphia, designed to show unity.
Earlier, Wasserman Schultz was removed as permanent chair of the convention, to be replaced by U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio.
In a statement, Clinton said she was grateful to Wasserman Schultz for getting “the Democratic Party to this year’s historic convention in Philadelphia, and I know that this week’s events will be a success thanks to her hard work and leadership.”
Sanders and his backers have long accused Wasserman Schultz’s DNC of putting its thumb on the scale to help Clinton. The party apparatus is supposed to remain impartial in contested races for the nomination.
Earlier Sunday, Sanders had called for Wasserman Schultz to resign.
“I told you long time ago that the DNC was not running a fair operation, that they were supporting Secretary Clinton,” Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week.” “So what I suggested to be true six months ago turned out to be true.”
Sanders later said in a statement that Wasserman Schultz made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party.
“While she deserves thanks for her years of service, the party now needs new leadership that will open the doors of the party and welcome in working people and young people,” Sanders said. “The party leadership must also always remain impartial in the presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race.”
Wasserman Schultz said her resignation would take effect after the convention. Party officials said she would gavel the gathering to order Monday and close it on Thursday, but would have no major speaking role.
A trove of 20,000 emails of top DNC officials released Friday by Wikileaks backed up the fears of Sanders’ campaign. They showed DNC staffers suggesting attacking Sanders on his religious beliefs, and planning to scuttle a previously agreed to debate before the June 3 California primary because that was what Clinton’s team wanted.