Bernie Sanders Delves Further Into Hillary Clinton's Qualifications

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders leaves the Brooklyn Diner in midtown Manhattan in New York City April 7. Brian Snyder/Reuters

After first saying Hillary Clinton is unfit to be president of the United States, Bernie Sanders on Friday morning seemed to walk back his comment by asserting "of course" she is qualified.

"On her worst day, she would be an infinitely better president than either of the Republican candidates," he told the Today show Friday, adding that he has known his only opponent in the Democratic presidential race for more than 25 years, formerly working with her in the Senate.

His most recent comments came two days after he told supporters at a campaign rally in Philadelphia: "I don't think she is qualified."

He continued: "I don't think you are qualified if you get $15 million from Wall Street through your Super PAC. I don't think you are qualified if you voted for the disastrous war in Iraq."

Following his remarks, tensions heightened in the Democratic race. Clinton's campaign called on Sanders to take back his words. Wrapping up a whirlwind day of campaigning around New York City on Thursday, Sanders appeared on Late Night With Seth Meyers. At the time of the show's taping, the biggest news to come out of the Democratic race since its move to New York earlier this week was Sanders's comments about his rival.

Meyers has proved himself to be late night's finest interviewer of politicians, and when Sanders sat down, the host pressed him about his comments in regard to Clinton's credentials. Sanders said that they were a response to Clinton implying Sanders wasn't qualified.

"After we won in Wisconsin—and that was our sixth victory in seven caucuses and primaries—I think the Clinton campaign has been getting a little bit nervous and I think they've been getting more negative," Sanders told Meyers. "I hope very much we can have an issue-oriented campaign. There are a whole lot of problems that the middle class and working class of this country are having. We should be talking about that. But if people attack me and distort my record, we will respond."

On the Today show on Friday, Sanders also discussed the tone of the Democratic race—how he thinks Clinton's outlook is "a lot more negative" now that they are campaigning in her home state of New York—along with how he would break up big banks and fight for gender equality. Sanders also answered questions from both the show's hosts, Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie, as well as from voters gathered in the audience.

An audience member asked Sanders about his stance on the liability of gun manufacturers, a topic that has been in the news all week. In an interview with the New York Daily News that was published this week, Sanders repeated that he doesn't think a dealer should be sued for selling a gun legally to a customer who then misuses it in a crime.

"If you sell me a gun and the gun explodes in my hands, of course you're liable to be sued. But if the product works the way it was designed to work, then I don't think that gun owner should be sued," he said, to some applause from the crowd.

During the Meyers interview, Clinton wasn't the only topic of discussion. One of the biggest criticisms levied against Sanders is that his platform seems too idealistic. How, Meyers asked, would Sanders address claims that his myriad promises are too "pie-in-the-sky?"

"The truth is, there is nothing radical about our agenda," Sanders explained. "You can tell me, maybe, that if every other major country on earth guarantee health care to all people, why don't we? Every other major country on Earth says if a mom has a baby, she should be entitled to stay home for a period of time with paid and guaranteed family leave. We don't do that. We have more income wealth and inequality. We have large multinational corporations that in a given year make billions in profits but don't make a nickel in profits. Trying to remedy and deal with these issues really is not radical. But what folks have gotten accustomed to is saying, 'The rich will get richer, everybody else will get poorer, our infrastructure will continue to deteriorate. We'll continue to have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country, and that's the way it is and it can't change.' I don't believe that. I think if we stand together, we can change it."

This, Sanders also noted, is why he is so popular among young people: "Young people look out into the world with a sense of idealism and say, 'We can do much better.'"

As the interview was concluding, Meyers brought the discussion back around to Sanders's comments about Clinton's qualifications. While the two Democratic hopefuls may be attacking each other with a little more aggression than we've seen thus far, it still pales in comparison to what's been taking place on the Republican side, and Sanders clarified that Clinton's "qualifications" far outweighed those of their potential GOP opponents. Said Sanders, "On Hillary Clinton's worst day, she's 100 times better than any of the Republican candidates."

Ahead of the New York primary on April 19, the candidates have had a taste of the state's diversity. Republican Ted Cruz made matzo with children in Brooklyn's Brighton Beach neighborhood, just two weeks before Passover, a holiday that commemorates the Jewish people's liberation from Egypt. His rival, John Kasich, met with voters and ate a sandwich and pasta at a deli in the Bronx borough, known for its Italian delicacies.