Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) denies intentionally leaving his seat at a stop in Iowa on Monday to avoid 'dreamers' who showed up and started questioning Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) about immigration.
Paul's explanation for his hasty departure: He was simply getting up to do another interview.
"About five minutes before that, or two minutes before that, the video doesn't show that another reporter came up and said, 'Will you do an interview?'" Paul explained to Greta Van Susteren on Fox News Channel Tuesday night. "And I said I need to take a couple more bites and we'll do an interview, and then I was told we had to leave and I had to do the interview. So actually, I stand about 10 feet from those people who are doing sort of a kamikaze interview, and I stood 10 feet from them and did another interview."
In video of the event that was widely covered, Paul is seen eating a burger at a fundraiser for King on Monday night when two dreamers -- undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children who are not being deported because of executive action from President Obama -- come up and introduce themselves to him and King. When one of them starts a conversation, Paul is seen quickly getting up and walking away.
Here's the video:
King is an immigration hard-liner. His exchange with one of the dreamers, Erika Andiola, was confrontational.
Immigration has proved a tricky issue for Republicans such as Paul, who have presidential ambitions. They often run into difficulties balancing the desires of a conservative base that is skeptical of reform with centrists who demand it.
Paul insisted he was not shying away from a talk.
"I've always been open to discussing immigration," he said. "I'm very open to discussing it.
Paul added that he believes the nation's immigration laws should be reformed. But he added, "You can't do it without first securing the border."