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Ohio Gov. John Kasich clarified his controversial comments on tipping Hispanic workers, saying during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” he meant they “hold very important positions” in the U.S.
“I’ve always said that Hispanics are such a critical part of the fabric of the United States,” he said during the interview. “They occupy jobs from top to bottom. They’re God-fearing and they’re hard-working.”
Kasich came under fire last week for a story he told during a campaign stop in California about tipping the Hispanic maid in his hotel.
"They are great, caring, hardworking folks. And a lot of them do jobs that, that they're willing to do," Kasich said, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
"That's why in the hotel you leave a little tip, you know? This lady wrote — at my hotel there, in L.A. — she wrote this note. She said, 'I really want you to know that I care about your stay here.' Isn't that just, like, the greatest thing? 'I really care about your stay,' and she had, like a little tree — she drew a little artwork.
"...And she's Hispanic. And I, I – because I didn't know it at the time, but I met her in the hallway. Asked her if I could get a little bit more soap."
Those comments drew criticism from Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, along with a handful of Hispanic groups, though the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce gave the GOP presidential candidate the benefit of the doubt.
He said on “Meet the Press” that he understood why some Hispanic leaders were offended by his comments, and that what he meant was “that they hold very important positions.”
Kasich remains one of the more moderate Republicans on immigration in the GOP presidential field, expressing support for a path to legalization as well as increased enforcement of immigration laws and greater border security. During his interview on "Meet the Press," the Ohio governor said he's had a "very reasonable" position on immigration, and again emphasized his respect for Hispanics.
“To be clear, I believe that, from top to bottom, Hispanics play a critical role in America, not only today, but going forward,” he said.
Kasich also weighed in on the recent controversy surrounding Donald Trump's refusal to correct a questioner in New Hampshire who asserted that President Obama is a Muslim and that Muslims are a "problem" in the U.S. Kasich said he believes Obama is a Christian, as he's said publicly, but "if he wasn't a believer, that would be his business."
He also declined to say directly whether he would have a problem with a Muslim serving as president, but suggested that a president's religion doesn't necessarily factor into their ability to do the job.
"For me, the most important thing about being president is you have leadership skills, you know what you're doing, and you can help fix this country and raise this country," he said.