Peter Navarro, a White House trade adviser, apologized Tuesday after saying “there’s a special place in hell” for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is in a trade dispute with President Donald Trump.
“In conveying that message, I used language that was inappropriate and basically lost the power of that message,” Navarro said at the Wall Street Journal’s annual CFO Network conference. “I own that. That was my mistake, those were my words.”
Asked if he was apologizing for the comments, Navarro said, “yeah, absolutely.”
Following the G7 summit in Quebec, Navarro told “Fox News Sunday” that “there’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.”
He added, “Those are my words, but they’re the sentiment that was on Air Force One after that.”
Navarro’s comments Sunday were part of the White House’s continued criticism of Trudeau after the prime minister announced that Canada would impose retaliatory measures to answer Trump’s tariffs and warned that Canada would not be “pushed around.”
Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, echoed Navarro during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, saying that Trudeau’s comments amounted to a “betrayal.”
The following day, Navarro’s remarks brought swift criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch told CNN on Monday that Navarro “should have kept his big mouth shut because I don’t think that helps us inform policy and I think frankly it was out of line.”
“It’s an awful way to treat your allies,” Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake told CNN, adding that he doesn’t believe he’s “ever seen a statement like that against any of our worst enemies, let alone our allies.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told CNN that he doesn’t think anyone should be “using overheated rhetoric.”
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short also sought to distance himself from Navarro’s comments and told CNN’s John Berman in an interview Monday that “those are words that I would not have chosen.”
CNN’s Eli Watkins, Manu Raju and Phil Mattingly contributed to this report.