Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch apologized Friday for saying those who support the Affordable Care Act are some of "the stupidest, dumb-ass people" he has ever met.
Hatch made the comments on Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C.
He was praising the fact that the Republican tax legislation, signed into law in December, canceled out the provision of the ACA, or Obamacare, that penalized people who don't purchase health insurance.
"[Obamacare] was the stupidest, dumb-ass bill that I've ever seen," Hatch said. "Now some of you may have loved it; if you do, you are one of the stupidest dumb-ass people I've ever met."
In a statement on Friday, Hatch called the comments, which he appeared to be reading as part of prepared remarks, "a poorly worded joke" that was "not reflective of my actual feelings towards my friends on the other side."
"While I occasionally slip up, I believe that my legislative record reflects my commitment to bipartisanship and civility much more than my flippant, off-the-cuff comment," his statement said.
The majority of American adults, 54 percent, have a favorable view of the ACA, according to the most recent polling from the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.
That represents a shift, however.
From the moment it was enacted in 2010, the law had been mostly unpopular. It only began to gain consistent popularity in December 2016, as the possibility it would be repealed intensified when Republicans took control of the White House and both houses of Congress.
"I've been all over the world, a number of times, by the way, and frankly there's no other country that even comes close to ours," Hatch said Thursday. "Well, there might be one or two that do pretty well, but they're really not in a league with us. As dumb as we are, and as stupid as some of our policies have been over the years, I can tell you that no other country can compete with the United States if we allow our true entrepreneurial spirit to go forward."