"Look at the petition, look at the actual reasons they themselves listed. It has to do with immigration. The ‘Browning’ of California," Newsom said, using air quotes to emphasize "Browning."
Newsom spoke to reporters Tuesday at an Alameda County, California, elementary school. The petition for his recall does not mention race. It states, among other reasons for his removal: "Laws he endorsed favor foreign nationals, in our country illegally, over that of our own citizens."
Newsom said his fight to stay as governor "has to do deeply with our values, the things we hold dear and so I'm not just fighting for me, I'm fighting for you."
Newsom acknowledged that the issue of his removal would come to a vote.
"The reality is it looks like it's got on the ballot, so we're ready to go," Newsom told reporters. "We will fight it, we will defeat it."
The recall petition was prompted by Newsom’s strict handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but the governor said it was fueled by alt-right conspiracy theorists and Donald Trump supporters.
"The chief proponent believes that we should microchip immigrants," the California governor told reporters. "Look at the original sponsors of it, you have someone who is … a proud member of the three percenters - an alt-right militia group. Others that are devout conspiracy theorists that believe Q-Anon. Another that literally supports the insurrection, supported it on January 6th. That's the group," he concluded.
Nevertheless, more than 2 million people have reportedly signed the petition.
Newsom also tried to walk back some surprising comments he made Monday on MSNBC, telling Joy Reid he already had "multiple" candidates in mind to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein if she retired.
The comments were a response to whether he would replace Feinstein with a Black female senator after Vice President Kamala Harris stepped down from her Senate seat to enter the White House.
But Feinstein, 87, still has another three years in her term left.
California's senior U.S. senator backed Newsom on Tuesday, telling reporters that people misunderstood the governor’s comments and accused his critics of making a "mountain out of a molehill," Politico reported.
"It was a hypothetical. I hope she serves out her entire term," Newsom said Tuesday. "I was asked a direct question, I tend to answer direct questions."
"I got to work on that perhaps," he added, saying he would avoid answering hypothetical questions in the future.