President Barack Obama smiles while greeting members of the audience after speaking at the Chief of Missions Conference at the State Department in Washington, March 14, 2016.
Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

White House: Obama still neutral in Democratic primary battle

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday pushed back on a New York Times report that said President Barack Obama privately told Democratic donors the party should begin to coalesce behind Hillary Clinton.

Earnest told reporters that Obama “did not indicate or specify a preference in the race.”

“As Democrats move through this competitive primary process, we need to be mindful of the fact that our success in November in electing a Democratic president will depend on the commitment and ability of the Democratic party to come together behind our nominee,” he said.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Obama told donors Bernie Sanders’ campaign is nearing its end and Democrats should begin preparing for Clinton’s general election run. Clinton needs just 35 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination, according to an NBC News count, after sweeping five Democratic primaries on Tuesday.

Obama has remained neutral in the Democratic primary battle. He voted absentee in the Illinois primary but has not said who he supported.

This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton

White House: Obama still neutral in Democratic primary battle