Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday he was not disrespecting Hawaii or a judge in the state when he said he was "amazed" that the official was able to block President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban halting immigration from several majority Muslim countries.
"I wasn't diminishing the judge or the island of Hawaii, that lovely place, give me a break", Sessions said later in response to Velshi, who asked about criticism of Sessions' remark.
Hawaii became the 50th state in the Union in 1959, but there's been a long and often fraught history between native Hawaiian people and the US government. "We believe there is specific statutory authority for everything in that order that he did".
Last month, Judge Watson issued a nationwide injunction blocking President Trump's travel ban, ruling that the plaintiffs - the State of Hawaii and Ismail Elshikh, the imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii - had reasonable grounds to challenge the order as religious discrimination.
"We are confident that the President will prevail on appeal and particularly in the Supreme Court, if not the Ninth Circuit".
The attorney general's statement, which was first flagged by CNN's KFile, garnered widespread criticism, including from Hawaii Sen.
Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) tweeted: "Hey Jeff Sessions, this #IslandinthePacific has been the 50th state for going on 58 years".
Meanwhile, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, tweeted: "Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge". Watson's chambers are in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu.
Hirono also slammed Sessions in a statement: "The suggestion that being from Hawaii somehow disqualifies Judge Watson from performing his Constitutional duty is risky, ignorant, and prejudiced".
"It's my home. Have some respect", he said.
"Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific - a attractive one where the Attorney General's granddaughter was born", he said.
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, among many others, took exception to Sessions' characterization of Hawaii and his understanding of our separation of powers under the U.S. Constitution, linking it to other scorn laid on the judiciary.
"It is disappointing AG Sessions does not acknowledge that", Chin added.