“I misspoke the other day. I said a word I should not have said, and media drives me a little bit nuts to make a big deal about it,” Sanders said in the interview, at which he was joined by his wife, Jane Sanders. “We’re going to get back into the groove of a very vigorous campaign. I love doing rallies, and I love doing town meetings.”
Sanders, 78, added, “We’re going to win this thing.”
On Tuesday, he had struck a different note. “We’re going to change the nature of the campaign a bit,” he told reporters. Asked to clarify what he meant, Sanders replied, “Probably not doing four rallies a day.”
The campaign has yet to say how severe a heart attack Sanders suffered or what, if any, lifestyle changes his physicians have recommended. The senator said Tuesday he will release his health records at “the appropriate time” but declined to specify when that would happen. His campaign earlier committed to releasing them before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses.
Sanders was taken to a Las Vegas hospital with chest pains Oct. 1, a Tuesday. It was not until the following Friday, after he was released from the hospital, that his campaign released an advisory from his doctors stating that he had suffered a heart attack.
In the preceding days, aides had provided limited information about his health, saying that doctors inserted two stents to treat an artery blockage. During that period, aides did not respond yes or no when asked specifically whether Sanders had suffered a heart attack.
In the interview with NBC, Sanders dismissed the notion that he was not transparent enough with the public.
“That’s nonsense,” Sanders said. “I don’t know what people think campaigns are — you know, we’re dealing with all kinds of doctors, and we wanted to have a sense of what the hell was going on, really.”
“So the first thing that we’re trying to do is understand what’s going on and not run to the New York Times and have to report every 15 minutes. You know, this is not a baseball game. So I think we acted absolutely appropriately.”
Sanders said on the night he had chest pains, he underwent “a few tests” before a doctor told him, “you’re having a heart event.”
NBC’s Harry Smith asked him to clarify — had the doctor told him he was having a heart attack?
“Yeah,” said Sanders, who said he “could not believe” what was happening at the time.
On Tuesday, Sanders told reporters it was “dumb” of him to ignore symptoms that might have foretold the heart attack.
“I, in the last month or two, just was more fatigued than I usually have been. And I should have listened to those symptoms,” he said.
Sanders’s recovery has forced a collision of needs for him and his campaign: to promote a healthy image of a candidate already struggling to replicate his 2016 success, while at the same time giving him time to recover.
Prominent friends and supporters of Sanders said Monday that he should cut back on his aggressive pace, which has surpassed his top rivals. His allies also said he should speak openly about his heart attack when he returns to the campaign — to show a personal side he has long been hesitant to reveal.
The NBC interview released Wednesday, conducted at Sanders’s home in Burlington, Vt., appeared to be one part of his campaign’s effort to confront the unusual challenge of keeping a national campaign chugging along with its candidate absent from the trail.
The campaign has sought to demonstrate progress and action in different ways. On Wednesday, it announced it had surpassed 1 million attempted voter contacts in Nevada, a key early state. Officials also said the campaign had booked 1,500 supporter events for October, including door-knocking, phone banks and other volunteer initiatives.
But it was unclear whether those activities would keep supporters energized and quell the questions about age and health that continue to loom over Sanders, the oldest candidate in the race.
The Sanders campaign has strongly hinted that next Tuesday’s televised debate near Columbus, Ohio, will be his reentry into the campaign. The debate will be one of the highest-stakes appearances of Sanders’s decades-long political career, a three-hour test of his physical capabilities for one of the most demanding jobs in the world.
Millions of Americans will be watching, if the ratings from earlier debates are any indication. He will be jumping back into the race on prime-time television exactly two weeks after his health scare, with 11 of his competitors standing on the same stage. Sanders said his cardiologist has assured him that standing for three hours will be “no issue.”
Sanders, who arrived in Burlington over the weekend, has made periodic trips outside his home this week. He left for a walk Monday and made a trip to see a cardiologist Tuesday. As he has come and gone, he has spoken to reporters staked out near his house, sometimes cracking light jokes.
Chelsea Janes contributed to this report.