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North Carolina senator apologizes for Hillary Clinton “bullseye” flap

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican, apologized Monday night after an audio recording from this weekend revealed he had privately joked about a gun magazine not having a “bullseye” over a picture of Hillary Clinton’s face.

The comments came near the end of a meeting with GOP volunteers on Saturday in Mooresville, N.C., after Burr noticed a man in the room wearing a hat with the logo of the National Rifle Association (NRA). It is unclear whether Burr was aware that he was being recorded during the meeting.

“Nothing made me feel any better than when I walked into a gun shop, I think yesterday in Oxford, and there was copy of ‘Rifleman’ on the counter, it’s got a picture of Hillary Clinton on the front of it,” Burr said, referring to the NRA’s official magazine. “I was a little bit shocked at that -- it didn’t have a bullseye on it.”

Burr’s comments were first reported by CNN, which also posted the audio on YouTube.

Shortly after the story broke on Monday afternoon, the senator issued an apology in a written statement to CBS News: “The comment I made was inappropriate, and I apologize for it,” he said. 

Burr, first elected to the Senate in 2004, is facing a tough reelection battle against a relatively unknown opponent, Democrat Deborah Ross. Initially considered to be relatively safe, Burr has seen his poll numbers drop as national and state political forces affect the race.

Several other topics were discussed candidly during the private gathering, including the latest news about the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email practices and the current vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Burr, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said “we got a gift yesterday” when it was announced that the FBI was looking into more of Clinton’s emails. Burr told the group that he pulled the official letter he received from FBI Director Comey from his pocket at an earlier campaign rally.

“Anthony Weiner is the gift that keeps on giving,” Burr joked, referring to the New York congressman whose computer is the alleged source of the new information the FBI is investigating. Burr suggested the emails may not be a new revelation, but that someone may have perjured themselves during testimony. He also floated the idea that a President Clinton could in fact pardon herself for any wrongdoing if she became president.

Asked about the current Supreme Court vacancy left earlier this year by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Burr assured the group that he would oppose any nominee put forward by Hillary Clinton.

“If Hillary becomes president, I’m going to do everything I can do to make sure that four years from now we’re still going to have an opening on the Supreme Court,” he said. “...This is not tough for me: I have the longest judicial vacancy in the history of the United States in eastern district of North Carolina. Not many people know that.”

“This is the weirdest election we have ever seen in our lifetime,” Burr said, as the room chuckled in agreement.