Steve King identifies himself as a 'nationalist,' defends earlier comments

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 (R-Iowa) sought to defend himself on Thursday after facing blowback from fellow Republicans for asking how the terms "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" became offensive.

King tried to offer a distinction between nationalist and nationalism in favor of white people.

"Under any fair political definition, I am simply a Nationalist," King said in a statement. "This conviction does not make me a white nationalist or a white supremacist. Once again, I reject those labels and the ideology that they define."

"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 the statement.

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King had questioned when the terms became "offensive" in a New York Times interview published earlier Thursday.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

King also remarked upon the difference between the record numbers of women and racial minorities in the House Democratic caucus compared to the mostly white male House GOP conference as the new Congress was sworn in last week.

“You could look over there and think the Democratic Party is no country for white men,” King told The New York Times. 

King faced criticism on Thursday from multiple members of his own party, including House GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe GOP's commitment to electing talented women can help party retake the House GOP launches anti-BDS discharge petition Republicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments MORE (Wyo.).

"These comments are abhorrent and racist and should have no place in our national discourse," Cheney tweeted.

It's not the first time King has come under fire for comments considered to be racist or anti-Semitic.

In 2017, King said diversity isn't America's strength.

He also tweeted earlier in 2017 that "we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies."

And last year, Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversThirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill House bill seeks to bolster security for synagogues, mosques in wake of attacks Congress can open financial institutions to legal cannabis industry with SAFE Banking Act MORE (R-Ohio), the then-chairman of the House GOP campaign committee, condemned King for supporting white nationalist politicians.

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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE identified himself as a "nationalist" during a campaign rally last year.

"You know, they have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist," Trump said in Houston last year. "And I say, 'Really, we’re not supposed to use that word?' You know what I am? I'm a nationalist. ... Use that word."

Trump added that Democrats wanted to return power to "corrupt, power-hungry globalists."

"You know what a globalist is? A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much," Trump said. "And you know what, we can’t have that."