NEW YORK — Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders struck a more conciliatory tone Friday toward his rival Hillary Clinton, saying that “of course” she is qualified to be president and adding that he is eager to return to a discussion of “real issues.”
Sanders’s assessment came two days after a speech in which he ticked off ways in which he said Clinton is unqualified for the presidency, including her acceptance of special interest money, her support of free trade deals and her support of the Iraq war.
During an appearance at a “town hall” meeting broadcast live on NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, Sanders said, as he has repeatedly since Wednesday, that his comments were prompted by attacks from Clinton’s campaign following his win this week in the Wisconsin primary.
The senator from Vermont was asked by co-anchor Savannah Guthrie if he had overreacted to comments by Clinton earlier Wednesday suggesting he was unprepared for the presidency.
“Did you overreact because you thought she said something more than she did?” Guthrie asked.
“Here’s the truth,” Sanders said. “I’ve known 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.”
“She’s qualified?” Guthrie asked.
“Of course,” Sanders said, “but the point is I would hope we get away from these attacks, which by the way, the media likes very much, and start focusing — maybe we can do that today — on the real issues.”
Co-host Matt Lauer then asked if the spat between the two Democratic candidates was damaging the party.
“Again, that’s media stuff,” Sanders said. “People out here want to know why they’re working longer hours for lower wages. Kids want to know why they’re graduating college 50 or 70 thousand dollars in debt. People want to know why we have so much income and wealth inequality.”
The balance of the 15-minute segment was devoted to audience questions on those and other subjects.
Toward the end, Sanders was asked if he doesn’t win the presidency whether he will continue to lead a political “revolution,” inspiring young people in particular to be involved in politics.
“Obviously our hope and expectation is that we’re gonna win, but that’s a fair question,” Sanders said. “We have brought out and seen so much excitement on the part of young people, who have so much hope for this country, who want to make this country a better place. We will continue that revolution.”
Sanders stuck a similar tone about Clinton later Friday on ABC's "The View."
Co-host Joy Behar said she was troubled by recent developments.
“It’s like you’re starting to turn on each other, like the Republicans," she said. "Don’t go down to their level.”
“I hope that stops," Sanders said. "I hope we can get beyond this."