Yes, he did say that. Then he denied it. Then he was caught. Then he admitted it but said he didn’t mean it. It’s all there on BlueNC. (Follow the link to Politico’s “The Crypt” — it’s a much-updated October 20 entry — to hear the audio and read the blow-by-blow.)

Congressman Robin Hayes’ exact quote, as he warmed up the crowd for GOP prez candidate John McCain Sunday in Concord: “Liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.”

And this was Hayes on his good behavior. He’d just finished telling everyone how he was on guard not to say “something stupid.”

Hayes, last time we looked, was trailing Democratic challenger Larry Kissell in the polls, which no doubt explains why all of Hayes’ ads are about what a dangerous person is family man/church leader/HS civics teacher Kissell. (Me? I like Kissell.) This is in the 8th C.D., which winds through the southern pines from Fayetteville west to Kannapolish. Hayes, the ’96 Republican gubernatorial nominee, is a textile heir and, according to Roll Call, among the very richest members of Congress. If not the smartest:

Hayes: “I genuinely did not recall making the statement and, after reading it, there is no doubt that it came out completely the wrong way. I actually was trying to work to keep the crowd as respectful as possible, so this is definitely not what I intended.”