(NEW YORK) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions says people should lighten up about controversial comments he made earlier this week about the state of Hawaii.
When asked by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview Sunday on This Week about why he referred to Hawaii as an "island in the Pacific," Sessions responded "nobody has a sense of humor anymore."
Sessions stirred up controversy this week when he referred to Hawaii as an "island in the Pacific" to conservative radio host Mark Levin on his program.
"I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president from the United States what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power," Sessions said on the program Tuesday.
Sessions' comments were referring to the Hawaii judge who issued a nationwide restraining order on President Trump's revised executive order that calls for suspending the entire refugee program for 120 days and halting immigration from six countries in the Middle East and Africa for 90 days.
Sessions’ comments prompted backlash from Hawaii’s Democratic senators and representatives in Congress.
“The suggestion that being from Hawaii somehow disqualifies Judge Watson from performing his Constitutional duty is dangerous, ignorant, and prejudiced," Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said in a statement Thursday. "I am frankly dumbfounded that our nation’s top lawyer would attack our independent judiciary. But we shouldn’t be surprised. This is just the latest in the Trump Administration’s attacks against the very tenets of our Constitution and democracy.”
Hirono also tweeted, “Hey Jeff Sessions, this #IslandinthePacific has been the 50th state for going on 58 years. And we won’t succumb to your dog whistle politics.”
Hey Jeff Sessions, this #IslandinthePacific has been the 50th state for going on 58 years. And we won’t succumb to your dog whistle politics— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) April 20, 2017
When, Stephanopoulos pressed Sessions on This Week for a response to Hirono, asking “Why not just call it the state of Hawaii?” Sessions instead defended the administration's actions, saying that the executive order is "lawful" and he plans to continue the fight to reinstate it.
“The president -- nobody has a sense of humor anymore. Look. The president has to deal with the Department of Defense, the national intelligence agencies, CIA. He knows the threats to this country. He is responsible for protecting America,” the attorney general said. “This order is lawful. It's within his authority constitutionally and explicit statutory authority. We're going to defend that order all the way up. And so you do have a situation in which one judge out of 700 in America has stopped this order.
“I think it's a mistake. And we're going to battle in the courts and I think we'll eventually win,” Sessions added.
Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.