"We should not have a multicultural society," said Jeb Bush Tuesday in Iowa.
It was a curious statement from the Republican presidential candidate. Bush, whose wife is Mexican-born and has three Mexican-American children, has long embraced “the immigrant experience." He's been a consistent advocate of comprehensive immigration reform that gives immigrants a path to legal status.
"When you create pockets of isolation — and in some places the process of assimilation has been retarded because they've slowed down — it's wrong," he added. "It limits people's aspirations."
Bush made the comments Tuesday at a small diner in Cedar Falls, Iowa. A young woman had approached him and asked how the federal government could better incorporate refugees.
Bush later told The Associated Press, "You have to have people assimilate into society. But that doesn't mean we have a monolithic, homogeneous population. To the contrary," he said. "The power of America is a set of shared values with a very diverse population embracing it."
And while the campaign doesn’t view these comments as a misstep or even a gaffe, opponents on the Democratic side do.
Progressive group American Bridge released a video accusing Bush of pandering to the far right.
And today, Hillary Clinton released a video “GOP Candidates on Multiculturalism” which cuts together Bush’s comments with an earlier Bush comment linking the term “anchor babies” to Asian-Americans. The video features controversial comments from other Republican candidates including Donald Trump and Ben Carson. “America the Beautiful” trumpets in the background.
Though the video links all candidates together, Bush was referring to multiculturalism in its most literal sense; a phenomenon that refers to the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a larger society. His campaign says he was speaking out against the debate between multiculturalism vs. assimilation.
Bush, unlike his fellow GOP presidential candidates, has thrown his support behind immigration reform. He said he believes immigrants should work to become a part of the American fabric, learn English and learn about the nation’s history.
“It's a set of values that people share that defines our national identity, not race or ethnicity or where you come from,” Bush added in Cedar Falls.
This is not the first time Bush has made similar comments. In his 2013 book "Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution" he wrote that "Assimilation into the American identity -- the values on which our nation is based and the constitution mechanisms designed to perpetuate them -- ultimately is far more important yet a much more difficult task."
ABC News' Liz Kreutz contributed to this report.