Washington (CNN)Bernie Sanders, in an interview with BET, accused Hillary Clinton of cozying up to President Barack Obama in order to pander to African-Americans.
The Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate also broke with Obama, asserting that the president “is wrong on certain issues.”
His comments come as the Democratic race shifts out of the overwhelmingly-white Iowa and New Hampshire and to states where minority voters play a much larger role.
“Hillary Clinton now is trying to embrace the President as closely as she possibly can. Everything the president does is wonderful. She loves the president, he loves her and all that stuff,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill, which will air on BET at 10 a.m. Sunday, according to excerpts from that interview provided by the network.
“And we know what that’s about. That’s trying to win support from the African-American community where the President is enormously popular,” Sanders said.
He then took a swipe at Obama.
“I think he has done a great job in many respects,” Sanders said. “But you know what? Like any other human being, he is wrong on certain issues.”
Clinton’s campaign swung back at Sanders, saying the former secretary of state is proud of Obama’s work.
“It’s disappointing that Senator Sanders thinks the only reason a Democrat would be proud of President Obama’s work would be a political ploy to court African-American voters,” said Clinton spokesman Jesse Ferguson.
“We know Senator Sanders believes the President has shown failed leadership, but like Hillary Clinton, most Democrats have a different view,” he said. “We are proud of President Obama’s work to rescue the economy from the brink of collapse, pass landmark health reform and reform Wall Street.”
Sanders’ comments come as South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, gets set to endorse Clinton on Friday — one day before the Nevada caucuses and eight days before South Carolina’s primary.
Clinton’s campaign hopes strong minority support will give her a “firewall” in the Democratic race, particularly in South Carolina and a swath of Southern states that will vote in early March.
Sanders has worked to cut into Clinton’s lead among minority voters, campaigning with rapper Killer Mike, airing a TV ad featuring the daughter of Eric Garner and showcasing Lucy Flores, a Latina former Nevada state lawmaker, in spots there.
But he has framed the issues confronting minority voters as tied to income inequality — a sharp contrast with Clinton, who says that issue isn’t the only cause of many forms of discrimination.