Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told a gathering of Tea Party conservatives that those affiliated with the movement need to watch what they say, alluding to his recent criticism of right-wing rocker Ted Nugent.
"There are times, and I don't think it is our movement, but there are times when people are using language that shouldn't be used," Paul said.
Paul last week in a tweet criticized Nugent's description of President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel." He said Nugent's comments were "derogatory" and "offensive."
"We can disagree with the president without calling him names," Paul said on Thursday. "I disagree almost all the time, but I don't call him names and I am polite to him when I meet him.
"I'm not saying that's our problem, I'm just saying there are people out in public who are taking away from our message and let's try not to be a part of that. ... Our message has to be a happy message, one of optimism, one of growth," he said.
The libertarian-leaning senator was speaking at an event celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Tea Party movement's founding.
Paul is a favorite of Tea Party groups but has at times sought to straddle the gap between the grassroots activists and the Republican establishment.
He also used the speech to take shots at government spending and the party establishment.
"The good news is your government's open. The bad news is your government's open and still borrowing over $1 million every minute," he joked.
He then criticized a bill that he said would eliminate "$3 million for Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel" that failed after half of Republicans voted against it.
"You would think that's low-hanging fruit ... but you'd be wrong," he said.