Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday tamped down speculation that he would slow his presidential campaign after he suffered a heart attack last week, saying he plans to compete as vigorously as ever for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
The Vermont independent told NBC in an exclusive interview airing Wednesday night on "Nightly News" and Thursday on the "Today" show that his health scare has only strengthened his resolve, despite telling reporters a day earlier he planned to curtail his normally packed schedule.
"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 during the interview alongside 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.”
He added, "I want to start off slower and build up and build up and build up."
Speaking to reporters outside his home in Vermont on Monday, Sanders said, "We were doing in some cases five or six meetings a day, three or four rallies and town meetings and meeting with groups of people. I don't think I'm going to do that. But I certainly intend to be actively campaigning. I think we can change the nature of the campaign a bit. Make sure that I have the strength to do what I have to do."
Sanders was hospitalized last Tuesday after experiencing chest pains at a campaign event in Nevada. He told NBC News that he went to a nearby urgent care center, and that the doctor there told him he was having a heart attack.
Sanders was subsequently treated for what his 2020 presidential campaign described at the time as a blockage in one artery. A statement from Sanders' doctors released through the campaign Friday called the episode a "myocardial infarction," a medical term for a heart attack.
In the interview with NBC News, Sanders also pushed back at criticism that his campaign was not transparent about the matter.
"That's nonsense," he 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."
He added, "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, 78, is the oldest candidate in the Democratic field and if he wins the nomination, he would be older than President Donald Trump, 73, in the general election.
Sanders acknowledged in the interview that age and health are relevant to voters during a campaign, but so too is a candidate’s platform.
“It is a factor,” he said of questions about his age and health, “[but] so is what you’re standing for — you’re running for president, what do you stand for?"
Sanders said that he feels strong and will continue to actively push for his progressive agenda.
"People should think that I had a procedure which hundreds of thousands of people a year have, people should think that, according to the doctors, that I am on my way to a full recovery, people should think that I have an enormous amount of energy — and it not what they think, it’s what they're going to see,” he said.
“I’m healthy and we're going to run a vigorous campaign and we’re going to win this thing.”
Sanders said that he plans to release all of his medical records, but declined to specify when. He also said that he plans to attend the fourth Democratic primary debate in Ohio next week, and that he and his doctor have no concerns about participating in the three-hour event.