Trump offers tepid criticism of King

Trump offers tepid criticism of King
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE on Thursday offered a tepid rebuke of Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingKing doubles down, says rape, incest should not be factored in to abortion decisions Steve King defends remarks on rape, incest The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters 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 CheneySteve King defends remarks on rape, incest The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Dick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report 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."