Comments Republican congressional candidate Gabriela Saucedo Mercer made about Middle Eastern people were meant to refer to terrorists only, she says.
She gave a four-minute speech to clarify her position and answered questions at a press conference Friday.
In the original comments, made a year ago and brought to light by her opponent Rep. Raúl Grijalva last week, Saucedo Mercer said Middle Eastern immigrants' "only goal in life is to cause harm to the United States" and that, legal or not, they are not wanted in the U.S.
Grijalva called the comments hate speech, and the Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee asked for an apology.
Saucedo Mercer says the comments were taken out of context.
"I want to make clear: I am not against Muslims," Saucedo Mercer said Friday. "I am against radical Islamic terrorists. Their only goal in life is to come to this country and cause us harm."
She criticized Grijalva for accusing her of racism.
"He plays the race card because that is all he has," she said. "This campaign is about his record. It's not about phony accusations. Bring it on, Grijalva!"
Asked whether she believes legal immigrants who are Muslim want to harm Americans, she said "The 9/11 terrorists were here legally, rest my case."
But she also said she would not exclude Muslims from legal immigration unless they had ties to radical Islamic groups. "If they love America, if they don't have any terrorist ties, welcome."
On StarNet: Find all the candidates' positions on SB 1070, Arizona's immigration law, at azstarnet.com/elections
Contact reporter Becky Pallack at email@example.com or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.