Steve King asks how terms 'white nationalist' and 'white supremacist' became offensive

Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingIowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats Ocasio-Cortez rips Steve King after he shares video drinking from toilet-fountain hybrid at border Steve King says he drank from toilet at detention center MORE (R-Iowa) is questioning how terms such as "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" became offensive in the U.S.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King asked in an interview with The New York Times published on Thursday. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

King later on Thursday, responding to the Times article, said he is not a white nationalist or white supremacist. 

"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 in a statement.

"It's true that like the Founding Fathers I am an advocate for Western Civilization's values, and that I profoundly believe that America is the greatest tangible expression of these ideals the World has ever seen. Under any fair political definition, I am simply a Nationalist."

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The comments came as part of an expansive report from the newspaper on King’s hard-line views on immigration and how they mirror much of what President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE has pushed for during his presidency.

King, for example, once went on the House floor to showcase a 12-foot wall for the southern border that he designed, the Times notes.

Trump is now demanding $5.7 billion for a steel barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border to be included in a government spending bill, a campaign promise Democrats oppose.

The impasse has led to a partial government shutdown that is nearing its fourth week.

The Times notes that Trump invited King to the Oval Office early in his presidency. King told the newspaper that the president boasted of raising more for King’s campaigns than anyone else.

“Yes, Mr. President,” King replied. “But I market-tested your immigration policy for 14 years, and that ought to be worth something.”

King’s divisive comments about immigration have led to scrutiny in past years. He once tweeted that diversity is not America's strength.

In 2018, he also defended his association with a far-right Austrian group with links to the Nazi Party and hard-line views on immigration.

“If they were in America pushing the platform that they push, they would be Republicans,” King told The Washington Post last October.

His public comments led a number of corporations, such as AT&T and Intel, to announce last year they would not make campaign contributions to the congressman. 

King dismissed his critics in November as "uninformed," saying, "if you attack someone and you don’t cite anything, you’re just a cannibal."

Despite making headlines right before the midterms, King beat the Democratic challenger  by 3 points.

King, who has represented Iowa’s 4th Congressional District since 2013, told the Times that he did not consider himself a racist. He argued that his Twitter timeline showing him greeting Iowa residents of all backgrounds proves his argument.

He added that he supports legal immigrants fully assimilating because “the culture of America” matters more than race, according to the newspaper.

-Updated 2 p.m.