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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, gave a shoutout to the now-retired Red Sox slugger David Ortiz as he grilled Jeff Sessions during the Alabama senator’s confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

Whitehouse mentioned Ortiz’s name as he asked Sessions, who has been tapped to serve as attorney general, about his past comments on the Dominican Republic.

“We have a vibrant Dominican community who look at Big Papi, David Ortiz, swinging his bat for the Red Sox, and wonder why you said, ‘Almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the US is coming here because they have a provable skill that would benefit us,’” Whitehouse said, quoting a Sessions remark from 2006.

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Sessions, however, said he had a perfectly good explanation and that the comment had been taken out of context.

“Immigration flow [to the US] is not on a basis of skills,” Sessions responded. “Immigration flow from almost all of our countries, frankly, are based on family connection and other visas rather than a skill-based program more like Canada has today, and that’s all I intended to be saying there.

“Tell anybody who heard that statement,” Sessions continued, “please don’t see that as a diminishment or a criticism of the people of the Dominican Republic. It was designed to just discuss the reality of our immigration system today.”