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Sanders walks back Planned Parenthood, Clinton 'establishment' comments

"That's not what I meant," Bernie Sanders told NBC News Thursday.

HOOKSETT, New Hampshire -- Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign and other progressive groups that have endorsed Hillary Clinton are not part of the political establishment, Sen. Bernie Sanders said Thursday, walking back comments he made earlier this week on MSNBC.

"That's not what I meant," Sanders told NBC News in an interview during his campaign swing through the first-in-the-nation primary state. "We're a week out in the election, and the Clinton people will try to spin these things."

Pressed on whether he views the groups as "establishment," Sanders said: "No. They aren't. They're standing up and fighting the important fights that have to be fought." 

Sanders said he was specifically talking about the leadership of those groups and their endorsement decisions. 

RELATED: Sanders dismisses major women's group as 'establishment'

The clarification comes after Sanders responded to a question from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow earlier this week about why so many progressive groups -- including Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the Human Rights Campaign -- were backing Clinton over him. 

"We’re taking on not only Wall Street and economic establishment, we’re taking on the political establishment," Sanders said. "So, I have friends and supporters in the Human Rights Fund and Planned Parenthood. But, you know what? Hillary Clinton has been around there for a very, very long time.  Some of these groups are, in fact, part of the establishment."

Clinton has been criticizing Sanders' comments in recent days, pointing out that the identified groups are focused on fighting for rights of women and the LGBT community.

"I don't really understand what he means by that. These are two of the really great human rights, progressive organizations in our country," Clinton told CNN on Thursday afternoon. 

She also tried to pin the "establishment" label on Sanders. "I just don't understand what that means. He's been in Congress, he's been elected to office a lot longer than I have," she said.