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

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashThe Hill's Campaign Report: DOJ, intel to be major issues in 2020 Amash decides against Libertarian campaign for president The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - In reversal, Trump says he won't disband coronavirus task force MORE (Mich.) on Thursday condemned fellow Republican Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingHouse Democrats make initial ad buys in battleground states Conservative lawmakers press Trump to suspend guest worker programs for a year The Hill's Campaign Report: DOJ, intel to be major issues in 2020 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 CheneyHillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump ramps up attacks against Twitter The Hill's Coronavirus Report: National Portrait Gallery's Kim Sajet says this era rewiring people's relationship with culture, art; Trump's war with Twitter heats up MORE (R-Wyo.) called the comments "abhorrent and racist."

Rep. Paul MitchellPaul MitchellDemocrats on edge over California special election nail-biter Michigan GOP congressman sues governor over emergency orders GOP lawmakers slam proposals for guaranteed income amid pandemic 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) RyanCongress must fill the leadership void Pelosi pushes to unite party on coronavirus bill despite grumbling from left Democrats rally behind monthly ,000 relief checks 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 McCarthyHillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate Rep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman 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.