A strident conservative opponent of the immigration reform bill that passed the Senate yesterday said he didn’t mean for his event against the legislation to dump on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) held a six-hour press conference last week against the Group of Eight bill outside the Capitol at the same time as the anti-IRS rally. Many activists held anti-Rubio signs or booed whenever the Florida Republican’s name was mentioned.

King told BuzzFeed yesterday:

“I do want to say this publicly and hopefully it emerges from the press to Sen. Rubio: It was not my intent for him to be the personal target of criticism. I wanted to avoid that that day, and I think my remarks opening it that day made that clear. There were times when I was distracted with other discussions that day and I’ve since realized through the press there were comments made that day that were not particularly complimentary. I have avoided it, I personally like Marco Rubio. We disagree on this issue but I disagree with the entire gang.”

Rubio addressed conservatives Wednesday in an open letter and floor speech.

“Political pundits love to focus on the politics of all this. But for me, this isn’t about catering to any group for political gain. Predictably, despite my work on immigration reform, so-called ‘pro-immigrant’ groups protest me daily,” Rubio said. “This isn’t about winning points from the establishment or the mainstream media either. No matter how consistent I have been in focusing on the border security aspects of reform, whenever I have spoken about the need to improve this part of the legislation, the beltway media has accused me of trying to undermine or walk away from the reform.”

“This isn’t about becoming a Washington dealmaker. Truthfully, it would have been far easier to just sit back, vote against any proposal and give speeches about how I would have done things differently. And finally, this most certainly isn’t about gaining support for future office. Many conservative commentators and leaders who I deeply respect, and who I agree with on practically every other issue, are disappointed about my involvement in this debate.”