Libertarian presidential nominee Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonBiden broadened Democratic base, cut into Trump coalition: study New Mexico lawmakers send recreational marijuana bills to governor Judge throws out murder convictions, releases men jailed for 24 years MORE got into a heated exchange over the term "illegal immigrant" on Wednesday during an interview with a conservative host.
Johnson said people should instead use the term "undocumented" when referring to people in the United States who have entered the country illegally or overstayed a visa.
"If you use the term illegal immigrants, that is very incendiary to our Hispanic population here in this country," Johnson said during the interview with Townhall's Guy Benson.
"Why's that?" Benson asked.
"It just is," Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, responded. "Just so that you know. Just so that you know and you don't have to use that term."
Johnson is fighting to get to the 15 percent threshold in polls that would allow him to take part in the presidential debates. A number of polls show him with double-digit support.
Appealing to Hispanic voters might be one way of building support for his candidacy.
In the interview, Benson continued to press Johnson, questioning him on whether the term is accurate because the people being referenced came into the country illegally.
"They came into this country because they couldn't get in legally and the jobs existed and you or I would have done the same thing," a visibly angry Johnson said.
"And what we're talking about now, coming from New Mexico, a population with 48 percent Hispanic, how's the crack-down on 11 million undocumented workers going to work out? It's going to be dragging people from their homes, that's how it's going to work out."
Benson asked Johnson whether entering the country without documentation is or isn't an illegal act.
"Well, you're describing that as something criminal," Johnson said.
When pressed further, Johnson said: "Technically, yes," before making it clear the term illegal immigrants upsets a lot of people.
Johnson also railed against Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE for his proposals on immigration.
"What Donald Trump is saying regarding immigration could not be more incendiary," Johnson said. "It is insulting to me, coming from New Mexico."