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

Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingHouse passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers Juan Williams: Stephen Miller must be fired Why the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy 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 CheneyGOP calls for minority hearing on impeachment, threatens procedural measures Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran Cruz, Graham and Cheney call on Trump to end all nuclear waivers for Iran 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 StiversKoch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill Waters clashes with Trump officials over 'disastrous' housing plans Financial sector's work on SAFE Banking Act shows together, everyone achieves more 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 TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed 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."