Senator apologizes for invoking names of slain journalists in policy argument

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Mark Udall apologized Monday for saying that the two beheaded U.S. journalists would agree the U.S. shouldn't "be impulsive" in dealing with ISIS.

"I should not have invoked the names of James Foley and Steven Sotloff. It was inappropriate and I sincerely apologize," the Colorado Democrat said in a statement.

The two men were executed in the past month, with their ISIS killers vowing to do more harm if the U.S. maintained its targeted air strikes against the militant group.

Udall, who faces a competitive re-election bid this fall, made the original comments during a debate Saturday while warning against rushing into further action beyond the current air strikes in Iraq.

"Steve Sotloff and James Foley would tell us, 'Don't be impulsive,'" Udall said at the debate, as seen on video published by National Review Online. "Horrible and barbarous as those executions were, don't be impulsive, come up with a plan to knock (ISIS) back."

In his statement Monday, Udall said his "intent was to emphasize the importance of taking the right next steps as we confront this serious threat."

Udall, who sits on the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees, also has received criticism for arguing that ISIS is not "an immediate threat to the homeland."

His views are at odds with a majority of the country. According to a new CNN/ORC International poll, seven in 10 Americans believe ISIS has the resources to launch an attack against the U.S.

Rep. Cory Gardner, the GOP Senate nominee who's challenging Udall, lambasted Udall's comments from the debate, saying "it's outrageous that Senator Udall would put words into the mouths of dead Americans."

Garner also hit Udall for not viewing ISIS as "an imminent threat to America."

Answering critics, Udall said in his statement Monday "these terrorists are a serious threat to U.S. interests and allies in the Middle East, and Americans are counting on their leaders to get this right."

"I will continue to push the Administration and demand that our country's approach is both tough and smart," he said.