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

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashHouse passes bill expressing support for NATO Dems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader MORE (Mich.) on Thursday condemned fellow Republican Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold King Majority of voters see Trump's border proposal as 'good faith' start to negotiations GOP rep in op-ed: ‘Some people affiliated with our party have made racist comments’ Steve King fundraising off controversy surrounding white supremacy comments 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 CheneyElise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 Sunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal NY Times prints special section featuring women of the 116th Congress MORE (R-Wyo.) called the comments "abhorrent and racist."

Rep. Paul MitchellPaul MitchellDem leaders avert censure vote against Steve King Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy GOP conference chair: Steve King's comments were 'abhorrent' and 'racist' 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 RyanHow Pelosi is punishing some critics while rewarding others Dem leaders avert censure vote against Steve King McCarthy rejects idea of censuring Steve King 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 McCarthyPoll shows 25 percent view McConnell favorably, lowest among leaders in survey Rep. Omar apologizes for tweet about Israel Elise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 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.