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Hoyer says AIPAC remarks were 'misinterpreted'

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package Key Democrat unveils plan to restore limited earmarks Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission 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.

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

The comment appeared to be referencing Reps. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMehdi Hasan gets MSNBC Sunday prime-time show Six ways to visualize a divided America Jamaal Bowman's mother dies of COVID-19: 'I share her legacy with all of you' MORE (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez: Detailed sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo 'painful to read' The GOP's uncertain future Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibSix ways to visualize a divided America Jamaal Bowman's mother dies of COVID-19: 'I share her legacy with all of you' Democrats urge Biden FDA to drop in-person rule for abortion pill 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.

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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 RoseOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Austin sworn in as nation's first Black Pentagon chief We lost in November — we're proud we didn't take corporate PAC money MORE (D-N.Y.) apologized to his constituents for Omar's remarks earlier this month, while President TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress 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.