Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) reversed course Thursday after facing scrutiny for referring to Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign as part of the political “establishment.”
Sanders, speaking with NBC News during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, accused the Clinton campaign of having twisted his words ahead of the impending primary elections.
“That’s not what I meant,” Sanders told the outlet of his comments. “We’re a week out in the election, and the Clinton people will try to spin these things.”
When asked whether the groups that endorsed Clinton were part of the “establishment,” as he had suggested, Sanders replied “No. They aren’t. They’re standing up and fighting the important fights that have to be fought.”
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The Democratic candidate faced harsh criticism after telling MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow this week that although he would “love to have the endorsement of every progressive organization in America,” groups like Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign had a history with Clinton.
“Hillary Clinton has been around there for a very, very long time. Some of these groups are, in fact, part of the establishment,” Sanders said on Tuesday.
The Clinton campaign as well as the groups named by Sanders immediately jumped on the senator’s comments, expressing disappoint in his choice of words.
“It’s regrettable and surprising to hear Sen. Sanders describe the very groups that fight on behalf of millions of often marginalized Americans—people who still have to fight for their most basic rights—as representing the ‘establishment,’” Planned Parenthood Action Fund Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens told Politico in an email responding to Sanders’ comments.
Although Sanders is now walking back his comments on the groups, this week a spokesperson from his campaign reportedly declined to clarify the senator’s comments, telling MSNBC that Sanders had “said it better than I could.”