Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) delivers opening remarks during a hearing in June. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On a local radio show, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) made a passing reference to liberals’ indifference to “those idiot inner city kids.”

He was talking about the issue of school choice, and what he and other Republicans view as the hypocrisy of President Obama and other Democrats sending their children to the best private schools while not wanting other families to have the same opportunity.

“It’s unbelievable to me that liberals, that President Obama, of course he sends his children to private school, as did Al Gore, and Bill Clinton and every other celebrated liberal,” Johnson said Monday on 1310 WIBA–Madison. “They just don’t want to let those idiot inner city kids that they purport to be so supportive of…they don’t want to give them the same opportunity their own kids have. It’s disgraceful.”

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If this was a television interview maybe he would have used airquotes around “idiot,” but it was radio and it didn’t sound good.

[Sen. Ron Johnson does not think everything is awesome]

We asked Johnson’s office what he meant, and at first they thought we must have misheard him. We didn’t. Then we heard from the senator himself. (He stepped away from the Iran nuclear deal hearing where he had just schooled Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, an MIT nuclear physicist, on electromagnetic pulse weapons.)

“Obviously I am a huge supporter of school choice, it infuriates me that these young inner city kids are trapped in poverty,” he told us. “I was being, that quote is, I’m being very sarcastic in that’s how liberals view these underprivileged kids. That is not my viewpoint in any way.”

But he said he understood how “hearing that little snippet” might make one “go, yikes.”

We asked him if he really believes liberals view inner city children as “idiots.”

“It wasn’t the best word,” he said. “Trust me I wish I would not have said that. That’s not what I mean.”

Here’s the radio interview:

(Correction: The radio station is based in Madison, not Milwaukee. It is labeled wrong on Sen. Johnson’s Youtube video of the interview.)