Hoyer says AIPAC remarks were 'misinterpreted'

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDemocrats give Trump trade chief high marks Hispanic Caucus seeks to retain voice in House leadership GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks MORE (D-Md.) on Monday said a comment he made at a pro-Israel conference over the weekend, in which he appeared to call out several freshmen Democratic lawmakers, was "misinterpreted." 

“Last night, I made a comment during my remarks that was, unfortunately, misinterpreted, and I want to make sure there is no ambiguity about what I said,” Hoyer said Monday afternoon.

He appeared to be referencing a comment he made on Sunday night at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, in which he chided the media for focusing on only a select group of lawmakers.

“There are 62 freshman Democrats -- you hear me?” he said. “Sixty-two, not three.”

The comment appeared to be referencing Reps. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSanders to propose canceling .6 trillion in US student debt Omar: 'People are being put in camps' at southern border Don't let demagoguery derail new black-Jewish congressional alliance MORE (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic showdown Young activists press for change in 2020 election Ocasio-Cortez calls out Steve King, Liz Cheney amid controversy over concentration camp remarks MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibGOP hopes dim on reclaiming House Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Democrats take aim at Trump policies by passing T spending package MORE (D-Mich.).

On Monday, he sought to clarify that remark: “In pointing out that much of the press attention has been on a few new Members in particular, I was lamenting that the media does not appear to be paying enough attention to other excellent new Members who are also bringing important new energy and diverse perspectives to our Caucus and to the Congress," he said.

Hoyer also drew attention for another remark during his speech, in which he said he “stand[s] with Israel, proudly and unapologetically,” adding, “When someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: Accuse me.”

The statement was widely interpreted as a rebuke of Omar, who said in February that she wanted “to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” Detractors accused her of invoking anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jewish people holding dual loyalty to Israel.

The controversy followed Omar's earlier apology for a since-deleted tweet in which she said lawmakers' support for Israel was "all about the Benjamins," referring to money, and then later said AIPAC was behind the push for pro-Israel policies in Congress. Critics argued her comments were examples of anti-Semitic dogwhistles.

The criticism eventually led House lawmakers to vote on a resolution that had initially been crafted as a rebuke of anti-Semitism, but eventually transformed into a more general resolution condemning all forms of hate.

Omar's fellow freshman Rep. Max RoseMax RoseGOP hopes dim on reclaiming House Republicans raise concerns over House campaign arm leadership Freshman Democrats call on McConnell to hold vote on election reform bill MORE (D-N.Y.) apologized to his constituents for Omar's remarks earlier this month, while President TrumpDonald John TrumpConway defends herself against Hatch Act allegations amid threat of subpoena How to defuse Gulf tensions and avoid war with Iran Trump says 'stubborn child' Fed 'blew it' by not cutting rates MORE claimed her comments, and the decision by several Democratic presidential candidates to skip the AIPAC conference, indicated the party is "anti-Jewish."

Updated: 5:35 p.m.