In reversal, Clinton says she'd back Sanders if he's nominee

Hillary Clinton participates in the Hulu "Hillary" panel during the Winter 2020 Television Critics Association Press Tour, on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP) (2020 Invision)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an abrupt about-face, Hillary Clinton said Tuesday night that she would endorse her 2016 rival Bernie Sanders if he wins the Democratic nomination to face President Donald Trump in November.

The former secretary of state had earlier refused to say whether she would endorse Sanders in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter published Tuesday, instead telling the outlet: “I'm not going to go there yet.” She had also offered a broad condemnation of the progressive candidate's style of politics.

“I thought everyone wanted my authentic, unvarnished views!” Clinton tweeted Tuesday night. “But, to be serious, the number one priority for our country and world is retiring Trump, and, as I always have, I will do whatever I can to support our nominee.”

Her initial comments ripped open the scars of the brutal 2016 primary battle between Sanders and Clinton just as Democrats are poised to begin voting on their next nominee. Sanders' loyalists believed the Democratic establishment had rigged the primary in favor of Clinton, who won the nomination but ended up losing the general election to Trump.

For her part, Clinton wrote in her memoir “What Happened” after her 2016 defeat that she felt some of Sanders' criticism of her had helped propel Trump to victory, and she begrudged Sanders for not backing her campaign quickly enough after she sewed up the nomination. In The Hollywood Reporter interview, she accused Sanders of fostering a toxic culture in his campaign.

“We're still in a very vigorous primary season. I will say, however, that it's not only him, it's the culture around him. It's his leadership team," Clinton had said. Then, referring to a cadre of aggressive, online Sanders backers, she continued: "It's his prominent supporters. It's his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women.”

She added in the interview: “I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, (he) seems to really be very much supporting it."

Sanders, like other senators who are running for president, was in Washington on Tuesday to participate in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. He refused to comment on Clinton's critical comments, saying only in a statement, “ Together, we are going to go forward and defeat the most dangerous president in American history.”