DES MOINES — Hillary Clinton said on Friday in a podcast interview that Senator Bernie Sanders and his supporters did not do enough to unify the Democratic Party after the prolonged 2016 primary, calling the behavior of his supporters “distressing” and saying it affected the general election.
“All the way up until the end, a lot of people highly identified with his campaign were urging people to vote third party, urging people not to vote,” Mrs. Clinton said in an interview with Emily Tisch Sussman for her podcast “Your Primary Playlist.” “It had an impact.”
Mrs. Clinton also drew a sharp distinction between her efforts in 2008 to bring the party together after her bruising primary battle with Barack Obama and the efforts by Mr. Sanders in 2016: “Night and day,” she said.
And she warned against party disunity when facing off against an incumbent President Trump in 2020.
“That cannot happen again,” she said. “I don’t care who the nominee is. I don’t care. As long as it’s somebody who can win, and as long as it’s somebody who understands politics is the art of addition, not subtraction.”
Mrs. Clinton already caused a stir last week when footage from an upcoming documentary revealed her saying of Mr. Sanders, “Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done.” When promoting the film, she initially declined to tell The Hollywood Reporter whether she would endorse or campaign for Mr. Sanders if he were the nominee; hours later, she clarified on Twitter that “I will do whatever I can to support our nominee.”
In Friday’s podcast, Mrs. Clinton minimized her earlier remarks about Mr. Sanders as “15 seconds in a four-hour documentary.” At the same time, she went on to speak about Mr. Sanders at length.
In the half-hour podcast interview with Ms. Tisch Sussman, Mrs. Clinton also sounded off on the Iowa caucuses — which will be held on Monday and which Mr. Sanders leads in some polls — as “undemocratic,” because the voting is limited to a single winter evening making them hard to attend for people with night shifts at work, like nurses, or parents who need child care.
“It is a very undemocratic way of picking a nominee,” she said, adding, “it just makes no sense.”
Mrs. Clinton lost Iowa in 2008 to Mr. Obama but won the caucuses narrowly over Mr. Sanders in 2016. “I’ll be happy to see the primaries start rolling around because that’s a much easier way for people to participate and for the outcomes to be much clearer,” she said.
Some of her most notable remarks in the podcast interview were about the aftermath of the 2016 primary. At one point, Ms. Tisch Sussman asked Mrs. Clinton of Mr. Sanders, “What do you think that he can do — whether he’s the nominee or not the nominee — to help get to that point of unifying people against Trump?”
“Well, he can do it, for one,” Mrs. Clinton said with a big laugh. “That’s not our experience from 2016.”
She said that she had “very honest, very open” conversations with Mr. Obama in 2008 and that she fully embraced his bid for the White House.
“So fast forward. I mean, you had, unfortunately, a very different outcome in the 2016 primary, where I won by four million votes. I won overwhelmingly in delegates,” Mrs. Clinton said. “There was no question about who was going to be the nominee. But unfortunately, you know, his campaign and his principal supporters were just very difficult and really, constantly not just attacking me, but my supporters.”
“We get to the convention,” she continued. “They’re booing Michelle Obama, John Lewis. It was very distressing and such a contrast between what we did to unite in ’08.”
Still, she was looking ahead to the 2020 race and drawing on her 2016 experience about the challenge ahead.
“I think people need to have to really think hard about who can beat Trump. And it’s not the popular vote, as I learned to my own grave disappointment,” she said. Noting the key Electoral College battlegrounds, she added, “Those are going to be tough states to win. So I just want us to be really focused on winning. That’s all I care about.”