Sanders Won't Say He's a Democrat in Joint Interview with DNC Chair After 'Unity Tour' Event

April 18, 2017

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) would not say, after speaking with Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez at a "Unity Tour" event in Kentucky, that he was a Democrat during a joint interview with Perez.

As for Perez, he seemed to dodge questions about whether he agreed with Sanders on multiple issues.

MSNBC host Chris Hayes asked Perez whether he supported a single-payer Medicare program and if Democrats needed to attack an "enemy" like Sanders did in his attacks on the rich and powerful. Sanders reiterated his criticism of the rich, while Perez declined to affirm that targeting them was a viable strategy.

"Do you consider yourself a Democrat?" Hayes asked Sanders on MSNBC's "All In."

"No, I am an independent," Sanders responded before pushing his plan to create a single-payer health care system through Medicare. Hayes followed up by asking Perez whether the DNC supported Sanders' plan.

Perez did not directly say whether his party supported that type of program, but stated, in an apparent effort to illustrate an area of unity, that the DNC believes health care is a "right" and that Democrats rallied behind an effort to defeat President Trump's American Health Care Act.

Perez said the Affordable Care Act, signed by former President Obama, "made tremendous progress," and that "we have more work to do." But he did not say whether that work included a plan like Sanders'.

Sanders railed against inequality in the United States and called out the "ruling class of this country, the billionaire class, and Wall Street" for "destroying" the United States with their "greed."

Hayes noted that Sanders named a "villain" in his messaging and asked Perez whether he thought it was "important, as the senator sitting next to you just said, to say the ruling class, his words, of this country are basically screwing average folks."

"Listen, you know, when we put hope on the ballot, Chris, we win. When we allow our opponents to put fear on the ballot, we don't do so well," Perez said.

"Hillary Clinton ran on hope. She ran on hope. It was a very helpful message," Hayes rebutted before asking, "Do you have to name the enemy?"

"Do you have to say, 'These are the people that are screwing you?'" Hayes then asked.

Perez argued that Hayes implied a "false choice" with his questions and went on to attack Trump for pushing a vision for the one percent.

"What we have to do as Democrats is to articulate very clearly that Donald Trump's vision for America is a vision for the top one percent of the one percent," Perez added.

Hayes also confronted Perez about the night when a crowd booed him during a DNC "Unity Tour" event.

"There's a significant part of the party that feels like you were a stalking horse for the establishment, that you're there to sort of put down the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. You represent the one faction in this battle. People booed you," Hayes said.

Perez responded to Hayes, commenting that he thought he and Sanders had a "very good day" on Monday. The Washington Free Beacon reported on Tuesday that the "Unity Tour" audience booed when a guest speaker mentioned Perez. Sanders and Perez set out to travel to five states, according to the Washington Post, to revitalize the Democratic Party.

The DNC "Unity Tour" came just weeks after Perez beat Sanders' chosen candidate, Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.), in the race for the DNC chairmanship.