CONCORD, N.C. — A Republican North Carolina congressman is coming under fire for controversial remarks he made at a John McCain rally minutes outside Charlotte on Oct. 18.

After first denying his “liberals hate real Americans” comment, Rep. Robin Hayes (R-08) said his comments “came out wrong” after reading them.

At the rally, Hayes spoke before McCain’s appearance and told the crowd, “Liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.”

When questioned about his comments, Hayes issued a clarification in a written statement.

“I genuinely did not recall making the statement and, after reading it, there is no doubt that it came out completely the wrong way,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

He said he was trying to draw a distinction on the differences between liberals and conservatives but admitted his comments were not the right way to do it. In addressing his statements at the rally, Hayes attacked LGBT families.

“As a conservative, I fight for lower taxes and policies that strengthen our values,” Hayes said in the written statement. “Liberals are advocating higher taxes, which I believe punish success — and they are advocating policies like gay marriage that I feel undermine strong families.”

Hayes faces a challenge Democrat Larry Kissell. In 2006, Hayes beat Kissell by only 329 votes out of more than 120,000 cast.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.