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

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashSanders co-chair: Greenwald charges could cause 'chilling effect on journalism across the world' Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall MORE (Mich.) on Thursday condemned fellow Republican Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingNebraska Democratic Party Chair: Rural vote should be 'bedrock' of party With surge in anti-Semitism, political leaders need to be aggressive and reflective in response Steve King challenger: 2020 Democrats have 'huge' opportunity to win over rural America 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 CheneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Cheney's decision not to run for Senate sparks Speaker chatter Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Apple reportedly dropped plans to let iPhone users encrypt backups | Justices decline facial recognition case | Critics fear Facebook losing misinformation fight | Truce on French tech tax MORE (R-Wyo.) called the comments "abhorrent and racist."

Rep. Paul MitchellPaul MitchellSteve King challenger: 2020 Democrats have 'huge' opportunity to win over rural America The Hill's Morning Report — Impeachment face-off; Dems go after Buttigieg in debate Trump's Dingell insults disrupt GOP unity amid impeachment 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) RyanOffice of Technology Assessment: It's time for a second coming Key moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far GM among partners planning .3B battery plant in Ohio 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 McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Cheney's decision not to run for Senate sparks Speaker chatter Mark Mellman: A failure of GOP leadership 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.