Governor backtracks on refugee comments

"I'm OK with religious preference."
Posted at 3:44 PM, Feb 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-07 20:12:56-05

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter is clarifying comments he made about religious preference and immigration. 

During last week's broadcast of Idaho Reports on Idaho Public Television, Otter said he believes Christian refugees deserve priority over Muslim refugees who are trying to enter the United States. 

"Do you believe that preference should be given to Christian refugees," Idaho Report's Melissa Davlin asked. 

"I believe that now, but, in 90 days or 120 days, that could change, and I would expect it to change," Otter said.

"How is that not discriminatory?" Davlin asked.

"It is," Otter said. 

Otter was asked to clarify his statements during an Idaho Press Club event on Tuesday morning. 

"I shouldn't have answered that question," he said. "I should have said I think it's not discriminatory, it's preference."

Otter was then asked to explain the difference between discrimination and preference.

"I think when you see a particular group being targeted for genocide, then you protect the ones you can," Otter said.

When asked if that protection would be extended to Muslims in the future, Otter said those decisions would be left to the federal government. 

"That's not going to be up to me, and I'm sure they're not going to ask me," he said. "All I can do is analyze what the Trump administration is going to do and how I think that would affect us here in Idaho."

An executive order signed by President Donald Trump suspended immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days and all refugee resettlement for 120 days. A federal judge issued a stay on that ban Friday.

Tuesday, Otter said he stands behind Trump's executive order, but refused to refer to it as a ban.