Bernie Sanders on Friday clarified comments he made earlier this week questioning rival Hillary Clinton’s qualifications to be president.
“The Clinton campaign has changed its tone” after losing seven of the past eight presidential nominating contests in the lead-up to the New York primary, Sanders told NBC’s Today show.
“I’ve know Hillary Clinton for 25 years. I respect Hillary Clinton. We were colleagues in the Senate, and on her worst day, she would be an infinitely better president than either of the Republican candidates,” he said. Asked directly by host Savannah Guthrie whether Clinton was qualified to be president, Sanders replied, “Of course.”
The fresh comments mark a contrast from what Sanders’ take has been over the past several days, stemming from what he saw as attacks on his own qualifications from the Clinton campaign.
On Wednesday night, hours after Clinton repeatedly did not directly answer Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough’s question on whether Sanders was qualified, the Vermont senator sparked a media frenzy when he said at an event: “She has been saying lately that she thinks I am quote, unquote ‘not qualified’ to be president. I don’t believe that she is qualified … if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interests funds.”
“I don’t think that you are ‘qualified’ if you get $15 million from Wall Street through your super PAC,” he said. “I don’t think you are ‘qualified’ if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don’t think you are ‘qualified’ if you have supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement.”
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And on Thursday, Sanders defended his remarks on Clinton’s capability to hold the office. Though he did not say she is unqualified, he told CBS This Morning host Charlie Rose, “I’m responding to attacks that are being made against me.” He later added,” If Secretary Clinton is the nominee, I will certainly support her.”
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He doubled down on the comments at a press conference Thursday, saying of his rival’s campaign, “They’re going to question my qualifications, well I’m going to question theirs.”
Also on Friday, ahead of his Today show appearance, Sanders spoke to Morning Joe and described what he framed as an increasingly negative campaign by his rival. Watch that exchange below:
Clinton, for her part, spoke to the Today show on Friday and said “she never said” Sanders had done anything that disqualifies him from being president. “His response to me was a misrepresentation of what I’ve said,” Clinton said, adding, “There are contrasts between us. That’s fair game.”
According to reporting by CNN this week, however, that fits in with the Clinton campaign’s “three-part strategy before the New York primary on April 19: Disqualify him, defeat him, and unify the party later.”
And as Kevin Gosztola, managing editor of Shadowproof Press, argued this week, “Voters have yet to see the full scope of what the Clinton campaign will sling at Sanders,” and wrote that “the Clinton campaign and media outlets like CNN promote a false narrative that the campaign has not been in attack mode. Since September, she has used a network of surrogates and rapid response super PACs to push anti-Sanders talking points into the media.”
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