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

Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingGOP rep in op-ed: ‘Some people affiliated with our party have made racist comments’ Steve King fundraising off controversy surrounding white supremacy comments Steve King's primary challenger raises more than 0k in first 10 days of campaign 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 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 (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 StiversHouse vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King House passes resolution condemning white nationalism House Democrats offer measures to censure Steve King 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 claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values 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."