MSNBC’s Heilemann Compares Sanders Campaign to the Bataan Death March

March 4, 2020

MSNBC analyst John Heilemann on Wednesday compared Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Joe Biden’s fight for the Democratic nomination to the Bataan Death March, an atrocity perpetrated by the Japanese Empire during World War II.

"Bernie Sanders is going to fight," Heilemann said. "He's got unlimited resources effectively, he's going to fight for the next three months. Nothing is going to stop this from being a kind of Bataan Death March over the course of the next three months, with each of these candidates going at each other hammer and tongs. That is not avoidable I think."

"Bataan Death March," anchor Andrea Mitchell repeated.

Heilemann argued Biden's Super Tuesday boost resembles Hillary Clinton's performance in 2016, when the former secretary of state built a delegate lead over Sanders that she never relinquished. He pointed out that the 2016 Sanders campaign put up a fight against Clinton despite being down by a much greater margin than the Vermont senator is now against Biden.

Sanders had a delegate lead and was widely considered the frontrunner going into the South Carolina primary on Saturday. But Biden won a blowout victory in the Palmetto State and outperformed previous polling in Super Tuesday states, establishing a delegate lead over Sanders.

Heilemann compared the race to the aftermath of April 9, 1942, when 12,000 Americans and 58,000 Filipino soldiers surrendered to Japanese forces at the Bataan Peninsula following a months-long battle. Thousands died being driven to a labor camp, an atrocity that came to be known as the Bataan Death March. Prisoners were starved and randomly shot, beaten, and stabbed throughout the ordeal. After the war, Japanese lieutenant general Homma Masaharu, who commanded imperial troops in the Philippines, was convicted in a war crimes tribunal and executed in Manila.