GOP lawmaker: Steve King's 'embrace of racism' has no place in Congress

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashEx-GOP lawmaker says Trump 'illegitimate president,' should be impeached Ex-GOP lawmaker pens op-ed calling for Trump to be impeached On The Money: Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump | Trump to offer B aid package for farmers | House votes to boost retirement savings | Study says new tariffs to double costs for consumers MORE (Mich.) on Thursday condemned fellow Republican Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingThirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill Overnight Energy — Presented by Job Creators Network — House Republican tries to force Green New Deal vote | 'Awkward' hearing to vet Interior nominee and watchdog | House panel approves bill to stop drilling in Arctic refuge Steve King: One 'good side' of climate change could be shrinking deserts MORE (Iowa) for comments questioning why terms like "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" were offensive, calling them "an embrace of racism."

"This is an embrace of racism, and it has no place in Congress or anywhere," Amash tweeted shortly after King's comments surfaced. 

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

The comments were made in a report on King's hard-line views on immigration. King, responding to the story later in the day, said that he is not a white supremacist or white nationalist, but called himself a "nationalist."

The statement prompted backlash from a number of journalists, commentators and lawmakers. 

Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyAmash storm hits Capitol Hill The GOP's commitment to electing talented women can help party retake the House GOP launches anti-BDS discharge petition MORE (R-Wyo.) called the comments "abhorrent and racist."

Rep. Paul MitchellPaul MitchellLawmakers say improving transparency in higher education offers chance for bipartisanship Dem lawmaker calls bipartisan College Transparency Act a 'game changer' for higher education The Hill's Morning Report - Lawmakers split over Mueller findings: 'case closed' vs. 'cover-up' MORE (R-Mich.) said that King's "embrace of these terms and philosophies are fundamentally wrong and offensive and have no place in Congress, our nation, or anywhere."

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, meanwhile, called on Congress to censure King. 

"And then he ought to be primaried ASAP," he said. 

Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanCNN's O'Rourke town hall finishes behind Fox News, MSNBC GOP faces new challenge in 2020 abortion fight 2020 Democratic presidential candidates rally in support of abortion rights MORE (D-Ohio) also urged the House to censure King for his "racist remarks."

"These remarks should also be repudiated by Republican Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyRepublicans spend more than million at Trump properties The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes MORE and all of Rep. King's colleagues," Ryan added. "Support for white supremacist ideology should have no place in Congress."

King's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

King has drawn scrutiny over his comments about subjects such as immigration in the past. He once tweeted that diversity is not America's strength

“Assimilation has become a dirty word to the multiculturalist Left. Assimilation, not diversity, is our American strength,” he said on Twitter in December 2017. 

In 2018, he defended his association with a far-right Austrian group with links to the Nazi party and his views on immigration, saying that “if they were in America ... they would be Republicans."

His public comments prompted a number of corporations last year to stop making campaign contributions to the congressman.  

King beat his Democratic challenger, J.D. Scholten, by 3 percentage points in November's midterm elections. King has been in Congress since 2003.

King will face new obstacles in the next election. Iowa state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R) announced on Wednesday that he would challenge King for his northwest Iowa House seat in 2020. 

His announcement was followed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) saying she would not endorse King for reelection. 

"The last election was a wake-up call for it to be that close," Reynolds told the local TV station.

Updated at 2:19 p.m.