A Republican gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania has said that comments he made about financier George Soros described by critics as anti-Semitic were just a joke.
State Sen. Scott Wagner made the remarks to a Democratic "tracker" at an event in Luzern County, Pennsylvania, Aug. 19, according to Think Progress.
Wagner was filmed stating that he thinks Soros hates America.
"You know what's amazing is that a guy who came from Hungary -- a Hungarian Jew -- and made a fortune, and think where he came from, and he has an opinion of America that he does," Wagner stated. "It's just amazing to me."
Conservatives have frequently targeted criticism at Soros, who donates millions to Democratic Party candidates and progressive organizations.
Wagner subsequently sought to dismiss allegations of anti-Semitism.
"I have a lot of friends who are Jewish," he added.
The "tracker" tried to keep Wagner talking until a member of his campaign team stepped in.
"This is exactly what they want," one staffer told Wagner. "You're just feeding into his bullsh*t."
Philly.com subsequently asked Wagner to explain why he had referred to Soros' Jewish origins during the filmed conversation.
"This can be really vicious and brutal," answered Wagner. "I'm trying to bring a little humor into it."
The site pressed him for a further explanation, pointing out that he would rarely be described as a German-American from York County. The newspaper also suggested that Wagner and Soros had more in common, since they both rose from humble beginnings to own businesses.
"We have very different, polar opposite beliefs," added Wagner.
Wagner is an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump. The senator echoed Trump's comments on the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, stating that there was no room for hatred of any kind in America. This prompted Wagner's critics to accuse him of refusing to condemn violence by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.
The state senator defended himself against critics of his response in an opinion piece published by Penn Live.
"The fact is there is no corner where violence or discrimination of any kind should be acceptable in our nation, and I have been a leader on this both in the private and public sectors," Wagner wrote in his Penn Live piece.
"I abhor racism, discrimination -- and the very idea that anyone would question the value of life based on race, color, creed or sexuality is flat out wrong," he added.