MSNBC's "Morning Joe" panel ripped the Democratic Party's left flank for abandoning an Omaha, Nebraska, mayoral candidate with a mixed record on abortion rights, calling it "stupid," "splintered," and "autocratic."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and the Democratic National Committee's unapologetic backing of Heath Mello despite his past support of bills called anti-choice, including a 2009 Nebraska Senate bill requiring women to be informed of their right to see an ultrasound before getting an abortion, has infuriated left-wing groups.
NARAL Pro-Choice America roasted the DNC as "politically stupid" for backing a candidate who will "strip women … of our basic rights." Far-left website Daily Kos withdrew its endorsement of Mello for his views violating the site's "deepest values."
Liberal pundit Joan Walsh trashed Sanders for giving Mello his support but not offering it to Georgia congressional candidate Jon Ossoff.
Bye-bye Bernie. Sorry. If you'd endorsed Ossoff with this same argument too, maybe it's OK. Dissing Ossoff and endorsing this? Nah. https://t.co/vUbEg4Jf09
— Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh) April 21, 2017
Host Joe Scarborough blasted the party's ideological purity test, wondering if the Democratic Party had any interest in winning back majorities in Congress.
"He agreed to a bill that said a doctor could tell a woman she had a right to have an ultrasound, and for that, they're blowing up the party?" he asked. "These are not people that want to be in charge of the House and the Senate again."
Scarborough said some in the party's behavior was "short-sighted" and "stupid," comparing it to a hypothetical pro-choice Republican not getting support from the party in New England.
Historian Jon Meacham relayed his experience growing up in Tennessee and how Democrats used to dominate the state's congressional delegation. Now, Republicans have statewide control, he said, due to Democrats having "autocratic" standards for candidates.
Liberal Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson said the Democratic Party's problem right now was simply being too small. The Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, much of that due to the Democrats dominating the coastlines but being almost nonexistent throughout the middle of the country.
"If it's going to recover, it's going to do it by getting bigger and it's going to make a bigger tent, so that means a 50-state strategy," he said. "It's certainly a lot more than the sort of bicoastal strategy that it has now, so it's going to have to accommodate different views or at least nuances of views."
"This requirement for 100 percent purity is a recipe to be a coastal minority party," said co-host Willie Geist. "If you're not willing to, on this one sliver of an issue, allow a little leeway for somebody who might be able to win and put a Democrat in that seat, you're not going to win across the country."
Field reporter Kasie Hunt commented on the party split represented in the booing and jeering that has marked the Democrats' current "Unity Tour" being conducted by DNC chair Tom Perez and Sanders.
"You're seeing a real splintering still," she said. "They have not healed this rift between the establishment of the Democratic Party and the people who are actually really excited."
DNC chair Tom Perez released a statement Thursday defending Mello, as well as reiterating party support for abortion rights.
"Our job at the DNC is to help Democrats who have garnered support from voters in their community cross the finish line and win–from school board to Senate," Perez said. "The biggest threat to women's reproductive rights is the relentless Republican attacks on women's health care, including legal, accessible abortion services."
Amidst the flurry of anger against his candidacy from the left, Mello told the Huffington Post he would not do anything in office to restrict "reproductive health care."