King regrets 'heartburn' over white supremacist comment

Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingSteve King contrasts New Orleans to Iowa on disaster response: 'Iowans take care of each other' Pompeo bemoans anti-Semitic language 'even in the great halls of our own Capitol' Steve King asked if white society is superior: 'I don't have an answer for that' MORE (R-Iowa) said in an address on the House floor Friday he made a "freshman mistake" in agreeing to an interview with The New York Times in which he asked when the terms "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" became offensive.
 
King, who has come under fierce criticism from leaders of his own party over his latest inflammatory comments about race, didn't offer a direct apology for the comments, but said he regretted the "heartburn" for his district and the Congress.
 
"One phrase in that long article has created an unnecessary controversy. That was my mistake," King said.
 
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"I regret the heartburn that has poured forth upon this Congress and this country and especially in my state and in my congressional district," said King, who said he does not endorse white nationalism.
 
"I've never been anti-immigrant. I have been anti-illegal immigrant, and I remain that way," King said.
 
King sought to make clear that he rejects ideologies like white nationalism.

"I reject that ideology. I defend American civilization, which is an essential component of western civilization," King said.
 
The Iowa lawmaker read from a statement he released a day earlier to underline what he said was his rejection of an "evil ideology."
 
"I want to make one thing abundantly clear; I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define. Further, I condemn anyone that supports this evil and bigoted ideology which saw in its ultimate expression the systematic murder of 6 million innocent Jewish lives," he said.
 
It's unclear whether King's words on the House floor will end the tornado surrounding him. 
 
Republicans have expressed deep displeasure with his latest controversy.
 
 
Earlier this week, Iowa state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R) announced that he will challenge King for the GOP nomination in the district. 
 
"Today, Iowa’s 4th District doesn’t have a voice in Washington, because our current representative’s caustic nature has left us without a seat at the table,” Feenstra said in a statement. “We don’t need any more sideshows or distractions.”
 
King ignited a firestorm after telling the Times in a story published on Thursday: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? 
 
“Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
 
After reading aloud his original quote to the New York Times, King emphasized that he was trying to defend the history of Western civilization.
 
In his floor speech on Friday, King said, "I reject that ideology. I defend American civilization, which is an essential component of Western civilization." 
 
King had previously issued a statement on Thursday saying that he considered himself a "nationalist," not a "white nationalist." 
 
"Under any fair political definition, I am simply a Nationalist. America's values are expressed in our founding documents, they are attainable by everyone and we take pride that people of all races, religions, and creeds from around the globe aspire to achieve them. I am dedicated to keeping America this way," King said in the statement. 
 
"This conviction does not make me a white nationalist or a white supremacist." 
 
 
But King said he hasn't received blowback from House GOP leaders aside from their statements condemning his remarks, like losing committee assignments.
 
King chaired a House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice in the previous Congress and it's unclear if he will remain in the role as a minority ranking member.
 
"I've heard nothing like that," King told a handful of reporters after leaving the House floor. "But the more you guys write about that stuff, you know, then it becomes an issue."