New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio criticized Bernie Sanders for saying Hillary Clinton was "unqualified" to be president.

"He should keep backing off of it. I have a lot of respect for Bernie Sanders. And I say as his fellow progressive, this is not the right way to go," de Blasio said while on CNN Thursday.

Clinton told an interviewer that it would be up to the voters to decide who is most qualified for the White House. While she never said Sanders was unqualified the Sanders campaign took her resposne as a dig at the Vermont senator's qualifications. Sanders then unleashed a torrent of reasons he found her unqualified during a speech Wednesday in Philidelphia.

Among the reasons listed included Clinton's ties to Wall Street, her vote for the war in Iraq and support for the Panama free trade agreement.

"Hillary Clinton is qualified to be president of the United States. By the way, Bernie Sanders is qualified to be president of the United States too," deBlasio said. "Hillary never said he wasn't qualified. She said squarely today either one of them would be better than the Republican candidate."

As the April 19 New York primary approaches, the mayor emphasized that it is important for the Democratic Party to focus on issues and "unify" in order to work "against the Trumps and the Cruzs of the world."

"Look I believe Hillary Clinton is going to win New York," the mayor added. "I have no question Hillary has a majority in the city and the state, but people have to turn out. The next 12 days are going to be decisive, and it's going to be won on the ground."

Currently Clinton leads Sanders 53.5-42.5 in New York primary polling, according to RealClearPolitics averages. Both candidates have close ties to the Empire State as Clinton represented New York for eight years in the senate and Sanders originally hails from Brooklyn.