Bernie Sanders likes and respects his rival Hillary Clinton, he just thinks she isn’t up to being President of the United States.
The senator from Vermont, in a rousing speech at the National Action Network conference in Midtown on Thursday, said that he considers her a pal.
“She’s an extremely intelligent woman with a wonderful résumé, a whole lot of experience,” said Sanders, who recently had to walk back comments he made campaigning that she wasn’t “qualified” to be leader of the free world.
TRANSCRIPT: BERNIE SANDERS MEETS WITH NEWS EDITORIAL BOARD
“I’ve known her — we’ve been friends for 25 years. You know, in a campaign things get heated up, but I have a lot of respect for her.”
It’s unlikely they will be meeting for coffee anytime soon, however.
The self-described socialist said in a not-too-subtle jab at Clinton that the problems facing the United States — like entrenched poverty, the declining middle class, and a campaign finance system run amok — needs true change.
Bernie Sanders touted his civil rights bona fides in his address, including his endorsement 30 years ago of the Rev. Jesse Jackson for President.
“If you believe that those issues can be addressed by establishment politics and an establishment economy, you’ve got a very good candidate to vote for, but it’s not Bernie Sanders,” he said. “That’s the truth.”
Sanders, speaking in front of a largely black audience, also touted his civil rights bona fides, including his endorsement 30 years ago of the Rev. Jesse Jackson for President.
“It wasn’t a popular thing to do,” said Sanders, who was then the mayor of overwhelmingly white Burlington, Vermont. “People turned their backs on me.”
Jackson, who sat in the front row of the speech, told the News afterward that has not endorsed anyone in the heated Democratic primary and doesn’t plan to.
“I have focused on reconciling Hillary and Bernie’s views because it’s going to take both to win,” said Jackson. “I’m pushing both of them.”
He said Clinton, who has stronger support among black voters, benefits because she is familiar name.
“His relationships are just new,” he said, adding, “The more people will get to know Bernie, the more they’ll like him, frankly.”
Underscoring his newness to the national scene, when Rev. Al Sharpton introduced Sanders, he at one point mispronounced his name as “Saunders.”
Sanders, who is trying to make inroads with black voters, also bashed the Republican Party for what he said was widespread voter suppression in some states that was a deliberate attempt to minimize the black vote and a remnant of the pre-Civil Rights area.
“We have a level of Republican voter suppression that is absolutely outrageous,” he said.
“You would have thought after all we have gone through as a country, to make sure that people have the right to vote regardless of the color of their skin, that these Republican governors would show some mercy and not try and bring us back to the Jim Crow days.”
He also likened his main campaign message — that the economy is rigged to favor the wealthy — to that of Dr. Martin Luther King.
“What Dr. King understood was of course you have to destroy segregation … but then he said, what does it matter if you desegregate a lunch counter, but you don’t have the money to buy the damn hamburger?”
He was greeted warmly by the crowd, some of whom peppered his speech with “preach” and “tell it.”
Sharpton praised him for making time in his schedule just hours ahead of his CNN debate with Clinton, and introduced him as the senator “who has changed the conversation in this election.”
At the end, Sanders got a standing ovations and the crowd chanted, “Bernie! Bernie!” several times.