Sen. Dean Heller said Wednesday that he has given campaign contributions previously received from Donald Trump to charity in response to controversial statements the Republican presidential candidate made about illegal Mexican immigrants.

The Nevada Republican said during a brief interview with the Washington Examiner that he categorically rejects Trump's characterization of illegal immigrants from Mexico as "rapists." Heller, a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, beginning with strengthening the border, represents a state that is home to a sizable and influential Hispanic voting bloc. The senator made clear that his disagreement wasn't with Trump personally, but with what the reality television star and multibillionaire real estate developer said.

Heller said Trump's comments were "absolutely wrong, and I dismiss them. I've already taken my campaign contributions from Trump that he has given me and already given it to nonprofit organizations. So, that's how strongly I feel that his comments were wrong. The way he said it was not a reflection, by any means, of how I feel about immigration reform."

Heller, appointed to the Senate in 2011 by Gov. Brian Sandoval, won a tough battle for election to his first full term in 2012, a victory that he and other Republicans credit partly to his aggressive outreach to Hispanic voters. In that race, the senator outperformed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who led the ticket for the GOP that year.

Heller beat Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley 45.9 percent to 44.7 percent, even as Romney lost Nevada to President Obama by a margin of 52.4 percent to 45.7 percent.

Trump, 69, has come under fire from some, and enjoyed kudos from others, for extensive comments he made about illegal immigrants from Mexico during an extemporaneous speech he delivered June 16 announcing his run for president. The impact of the remarks received extra attention because, for the first time, Trump was speaking as a presidential candidate, not a hard-charging businessman or flamboyant reality television host.

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you," he said last month. "They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

In a statement issued on Monday, Trump attempted to clarify his remarks, but did not back away or apologize. "I don't see how there is any room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the statement I made on June 16 during my presidential announcement speech … and yet this statement is deliberately distorted by the media."

Heller said it was important for Republicans to respond to Trump's rhetoric, particularly those seeking the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, given the potential political impact on the party.

"I don't usually respond to candidates' comments, but this one has taken kind of its own direction, and I think every candidate, now, does have to respond," he said.

Disclosure: The author's wife works as an adviser to Scott Walker.