Bill Clinton: Hillary held to 'different standard' due to gender

ERIE, Pennsylvania – Former President Bill Clinton said a male presidential candidate with his wife’s resume would not be accused of being unqualified, as Democratic rival Bernie Sanders said of Hillary Clinton earlier this week.

“Well, of course it wouldn’t happen,” Clinton told MSNBC on the rope line after a campaign event here supporting his wife’s presidential candidacy.

Asked if gender is a factor in Sanders’ comments on his wife, the former president at first demurred. “I think she’d be the best president. And I think it’s obvious. That’s all that matters to me,” he said.

But then he added: “Yes, I think there are some different standards. Some of them are subconscious." 

RELATED: A debate over Clinton’s qualifications might be over (maybe)

The Sanders and Clinton campaigns have been sparing this week after Sanders said at a rally in Philadelphia that his Democratic rival is not qualified to be president because of her vote on the Iraq War and donations from Wall Street. Clinton’s campaign started the feud by trying to disqualify Sanders, his campaign claims. 

On Friday though, Sanders walked back the claim.

“Of course” she’s qualified, Sanders said on NBC News’ "TODAY." “But the point is I would hope we get away from these attacks, which by the way, the media likes very much, and start focusing -- maybe we can do that today -- on the real issues.” 

“I think she is very bright, and I'm not going to get dragged into telling you something that is not true.  I've known her for 25 years, I respect her,” he said.  “But if I am being attacked day after day, after day … What am I supposed to do?”

Pennsylvania votes on April 26, when its 189 delegates will be up for grabs. The state gave Clinton an important, though ultimately not live-saving, win in the 2008 primary against Barack Obama.