He did not deny saying these words. This is exactly what he said:
"The offensive name-calling words attributed to me by the press were never spoken to my colleagues and if they were construed that way, I apologize for their misunderstanding."
This isavery carefully worded non-denial. He does not deny using the words. He denies addressing them to his colleague. The denial is not of the words themselves, but only of addressing them to AOC. This is consistent with the reporter's statement that he said them to himself as he was walking away.
An actual denial would have sounded different. It would have been something like, "I did not use those words." Had he actually denied the words, this would be a different conversation--one about who is lying and who is telling the truth. But, given the opportunity to issue such a denial, he issued a wordy and ineffective sentence that denies directing the words at his colleague and then apologized if she misunderstood and thought that the words that he said to himself were addressed her.