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Richard Burr apologizes for joking about ‘bullseye’ on Hillary Clinton

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr apologized Monday for saying he was surprised a magazine about guns didn’t put a “bullseye” on Hillary Clinton’s face.

Burr, a Republican, was answering questions in a private gathering of Republicans in Mooresville. A recording of the 45-minute meeting was posted on YouTube and sent to CNN, which reported on the comment Monday evening.

Burr made the comment while telling a brief anecdote after he noticed a man at the event wearing a National Rifle Association hat.

“Nothing made me feel any better than when I walked into a gun shop, I think yesterday in Oxford, and there was copy of Rifleman (the NRA’s official magazine) on the counter,” Burr said. “It’s got a picture of Hillary Clinton on the front of it.

“I was a little bit shocked that it didn’t have a bullseye on it.”

Burr appears to be telling the story as an example that shows gun owners are motivated for this year’s election. He concluded: “On the bottom right (of the magazine), it had everybody running for federal office in this state. There’s an army of support out there right now for our candidates.”

Burr’s campaign issued an apology for the comment after CNN obtained the recording Monday.

“The comment I made was inappropriate, and I apologize for it,” Burr said in a written statement provided to The News & Observer.

Democrats quickly condemned Burr’s comments. “Burr’s comments about gun owners shooting Hillary Clinton are dangerous and disgusting,” the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said in a news release.

Libertarian Senate candidate Sean Haugh weighed in on Twitter: “Yet another way @SenatorBurr and I are the exact opposite – I’m firmly against assassinating my opponents.”

In other highlights from the leaked recording:

Burr says he’ll oppose any Clinton Supreme Court nominee: “If Hillary becomes president, I’m going to do everything I can do to make sure that four years from now, we’re still going to have an opening on the Supreme Court,” he said.

Burr’s position matches that of U.S. Sen. John McCain, who recently said Republicans will block anyone Clinton might nominate to the Supreme Court.

He’s proud of blocking President Barack Obama’s court appointment: “This is not tough for me,” he said of blocking a judicial nominee. “I had the longest judicial vacancy in the history of the United States on the Eastern District of North Carolina. Not many people know that.”

Burr explains that during Obama’s first term, he’d made a deal with the president: He’d back a court appointment for “(then-Sen.) Kay Hagan’s best friend” if Obama would nominate Burr’s preferred candidate for the Eastern District. But after Obama was re-elected, Burr says the president told him the deal was only good during his first term. Obama instead nominated Patricia Timmons-Goodson, a former state Supreme Court justice.

“Let me make you a promise,” Burr recalled telling the president after hearing about the nomination. “This seat will be vacant on the day you go out of office. There’s no question that it was the right thing to do.”

He takes credit for Clinton email probe: “I’ll tell you a little secret: The FBI never would have investigated the emails had it not been for a letter that (Sen.) Bob Corker and I sent to the inspector general of the intelligence community that kicked this all off,” he said. “I have responsibility for securing any classified materials” as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

He thinks Clinton might pardon herself as president: Burr addressed a question about how Clinton might obtain a presidential pardon if an FBI investigation of her private email server results in criminal charges.

“Here’s the problem: Could she pardon herself? And the answer’s yes. That’s not disputed.”

Quoting “Duck Dynasty” star on why he backs Donald Trump: Addressing Trump’s controversies, Burr said he liked what “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson said about the presidential candidate in a recent interview.

“When you look at every issue, he aligns perfectly with where the Republican Party is,” Burr said, paraphrasing Robertson. “Do I throw him overboard because he’s done things that we would consider to be immoral?”

Burr said that while Trump’s comments on women were “very inappropriate,” he thinks “some day all of us are going to need to be forgiven for something.”

“I think it’s really, really important when you get somebody that aligns with you politically, that you give them the freedom to determine how they change as an individual,” Burr said.

On the media: Burr said “the North Carolina media is disgusting,” and because of negative coverage, “I sort of felt like Donald Trump,” who frequently slams media organizations covering him.

Burr says he’s been avoiding news interviews. “They want me to go be in front of a TV camera or in front of a reporter,” he said, referring to his campaign staff. “That doesn’t work very well for me right now. That just comes up with a negative story.”

The campaign is refusing to provide The News & Observer with details of his campaign schedule, citing concerns with the paper’s coverage of the race.

Burr said he hasn’t informed his staff about his campaign schedule for weeks, and he’s instead been making unannounced stops at early voting sites and in small towns. “Retail politics still works,” he said.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter