Trump offers tepid criticism of King

Trump offers tepid criticism of King
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report MORE on Thursday offered a tepid rebuke of Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingWhy the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy MSNBC's Donny Deutsch: 'Pathetic' Republicans who stormed closed hearing are 'boring, nerdy-looking white guys' Overnight Defense: Trump lifts sanctions on Turkey | 'Small number' of troops to remain by Syrian oil fields | Defense official's impeachment testimony delayed five hours after Republicans storm secure room MORE's (R-Iowa) latest controversial comments in which the congressman questioned whether there would be "any population of the world left" if not for rape and incest.

Trump initially told reporters as he left New Jersey for a campaign rally in New Hampshire that he wasn't familiar with King's comments from a day earlier, before gently pushing back against the congressman.

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"I read a statement that supposedly he made. I haven't been briefed on it, but certainly it wasn’t a very good statement," Trump said.

The president did not say whether he believed the congressman should resign.

Trump has in the past sidestepped King's controversial comments about immigration and white nationalism.

The Iowa Republican sparked a bipartisan uproar again on Wednesday with his comments about rape and incest.

"What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?" he said, according to The Des Moines Register.

King made the remarks while seeking to defend anti-abortion legislation with no rape or incest exceptions.

GOP lawmakers condemned the comments, with House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyLawmakers call for extra security for anti-Erdoğan protesters  Live updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower Overnight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite MORE (Wyo.) saying that it was time for the Iowa Republican "to go."

In an interview with The New York Times published in January, King asked how language like "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" became offensive. 

Last year, King backed a white nationalist mayoral candidate in Canada and met with Austria's Freedom Party, a group founded by a former Nazi SS officer and whose leader was involved in neo-Nazi circles.

King tweeted in 2017 that “we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies.” 

The president supported King's reelection bid in 2014, appearing with the congressman at an event in Iowa. At a campaign rally in Iowa last year, Trump joked that King "may be the world's most conservative human being."