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Sanders dismisses major women's group as 'establishment'

Asked by Rachel Maddow about reproductive rights and LGBT groups endorsing Clinton, Sanders says, "Some of these groups are part of the establishment."
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign stop at the Electric Park Ballroom on Jan. 11, 2016 in Waterloo, Iowa. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign stop at the Electric Park Ballroom on Jan. 11, 2016 in Waterloo, Iowa.

Hillary Clinton personally struck back at her Democratic primary opponent Bernie Sanders for his comments about the reproductive and LGBT rights groups that have endorsed her.

Asked by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Tuesday evening about the fact that Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the Human Rights Campaign endorsed Clinton, Sanders replied, "We're taking on not only Wall Street and the economic establishment, we're taking on the political establishment. So I have friends and supporters in the Human Rights Fund [sic], in Planned Parenthood. But you know what, Hillary Clinton has been around there for a very, very long time and some of these groups are part of the establishment."

Clinton and her supporters quickly seized on the remarks, including with a tweet from Clinton's official account, signed "-H" to denote that she wrote it. "Really Senator Sanders?" Clinton wrote. "How can you say that groups like @PPact and @HRC are part of the "establishment" you're taking on?" Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, tweeted, "disappointing to hear this." The Planned Parenthood Action Fund tweeted, "We respect @SenSanders. Disappointed to be called "establishment" as we fight like hell to protect women's health." HRC echoed the remarks:

Jessica Morales Rocketto, the Clinton campaign's digital organizing director, elaborated on her own Twitter account why the campaign took offense. "The more I think about @PPact as "establishment," the madder I get," she wrote. "Women with control over our bodies + lives is my revolution." 

NARAL's president, Ilyse Hogue, also weighed in on a call with reporters. She praised Clinton for "not just committing to expanding funding for Planned Parenthood, but also to take on the Hyde amendment, which is nothing more than discrimination against low income women trying to access vital health care and their constitutional rights .... Unfortunately, directly in opposition to Bernie’s unfortunate comments last night on Rachel Maddow, the anti-choice minority has become the establishment at state legislatures and is becoming the establishment at our federal level."

In an interview with NBC News, Sen. Claire McCaskill, another Clinton surrogate, said, “I think that for Planned Parenthood, or NARAL, or the Human Rights Campaign to be considered the establishment, someone’s not paying close attention to the way American politics works.”

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While the groups in question are entrenched in Democratic politics, Planned Parenthood in particular just ended a rough year in which its staff was secretly recorded by right-wing activists accusing them of "selling baby parts," congressional and state Republicans repeatedly voted to strip the group of healthcare funding, and three people were shot and killed at one of their health facilities in Colorado Springs by a gunman stating his opposition to abortion. 

Earlier on Tuesday, Sanders campaign Michael Briggs responded to the Human Rights Campaign's Clinton endorsement by saying, “It’s understandable and consistent with the establishment organizations voting for the establishment candidate, but it’s an endorsement that cannot possibly be based on the facts and the record.” 

Asked by MSNBC if the Sanders campaign wanted to clarify his remarks on "The Rachel Maddow Show," Briggs said, "He said it better than I could."