Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy

Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden builds big lead in battleground Florida Progressive Bowman ousts Engel in New York primary Colorado GOP Rep. Scott Tipton defeated in primary upset MORE is facing a new political storm over his latest inflammatory comments about immigration and race ­— remarks in which he questioned why the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” were offensive.

Talk of censuring the Iowa Republican is picking up as he takes heavy criticism from his own party. There are also questions about whether he could lose the distinction of being a subcommittee ranking member in the current Congress.

A Friday floor speech in which he expressed regret for “heartburn” felt in Congress and in his district and the country over his remarks did not appear to quell the growing storm.

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Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottLobbyists see wins, losses in GOP coronavirus bill Revered civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis lies in state in the Capitol GOP plan would boost deduction for business meals MORE (R-S.C.), the Senate's only black Republican, penned a Washington Post op-ed on Friday warning that King reflects poorly on the rest of the GOP.

“When people with opinions similar to King’s open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole,” he wrote.

Scott compared King to Louis Farrakhan, describing both as “lonely voices in the wilderness.”

“King’s comments are not conservative views but separate views that should be ridiculed at every turn possible,” Scott wrote.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Trump says he's considering executive action to suspend evictions, payroll tax Trump won't say if he disagrees with Birx that virus is widespread MORE (D-Calif.) said Friday that the House will take some punitive action against King.

“We’ll see what we do about Steve King but nonetheless, nothing is shocking anymore, right? The new normal around here is to praise white supremacists and nationalism as something that shouldn’t be shunned,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. 

But she declined to say what specific action the House might take.

“I’m not prepared to make any announcement about that right now,” Pelosi said. “But needless to say, there’s interest in doing something.” 

One House Democrat, Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: HHS Secretary Azar says US plans to have tens of millions of vaccine doses this fall; Kremlin allegedly trying to hack vaccine research Democrats see victory in Trump culture war House Democrat calls for 'real adult discussion' on lawmaker pay MORE (Ohio), called for King to be formally censured by the House for what he called “racist remarks.” A spokesman confirmed that Ryan's staff is drafting a censure resolution while the lawmaker further discusses the idea with colleagues.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) suggested earlier Friday that a repudiation from House GOP leaders would have more impact.

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“I think the most powerful statement should come from the Republican leadership. That doesn't mean that censure is inappropriate. I'm just saying I think when we speak out about our own side, it's much more powerful,” said Cleaver, who is African-American.

House GOP leaders, however, have not moved to take concrete action against King beyond issuing statements disapproving of his comments. 

In the previous Congress, King chaired the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice and could stand to remain its top Republican in the minority.

King said Friday that he hasn't heard anything from House GOP leaders threatening his committee assignments or his role on the Judiciary subcommittee. 

“I've heard nothing like that,” King told reporters. “But the more you guys write about that stuff, you know, then it becomes an issue.”

GOP leaders have not yet had the opportunity to finalize committee assignments for rank-and-file members at the start of the new Congress. A spokeswoman for Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsSunday shows preview: White House, Democratic leaders struggle for deal on coronavirus bill Trump and Biden tied in Georgia: poll Democrats blister Barr during tense hearing MORE (Ga.), the Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, didn't return a request for comment.

Iowa state Sen. Randy Feenstra announced a primary challenge against King this week, saying that “we don’t need any more sideshows or distractions.” A second Republican, Bret Richards, also told the Des Moines Register that he plans to run against King.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said this week that she would not endorse King in his next campaign, telling a local TV station that the last election “was a wake-up call for it to be that close.”

But National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerHouse Republicans voice optimism on winning back the House following special election victories GOP pulls support from California House candidate over 'unacceptable' social media posts Trump campaign launches new fundraising program with House Republicans MORE (R-Minn.) said it likely won't get involved in a primary in King's district.

And other House Republicans who criticized King for his comments were nonetheless wary of unequivocally punishing King.

Rep. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartHouse Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections Multiple lawmakers self-quarantine after exposure to Gohmert Gohmert tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Fla.), who called King's remarks “regrettable,” suggested it could be a slippery slope for comments that weren't made on the House floor.

“If you start censuring people for what they say outside, on their own, in an interview, we're going to need to open up and stay here for a long time,” Diaz-Balart said. “There's no monopoly from one member or from one party saying things are regrettable and offensive.”

Rep. Paul MitchellPaul MitchellHouse GOP pushes back at Trump on changing election date House Armed Services votes to make Pentagon rename Confederate-named bases in a year Rep. Lloyd Smucker added to House GOP leadership MORE (R-Mich.) said that he would “probably vote in favor” of censuring King if there was also an opportunity to censure fellow Michigander and freshman Democratic Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibThe Hill's Campaign Report: What to watch for in Tuesday's primaries 'Squad' member Rashida Tlaib faces strong primary challenger Trump holds mini-rally at Florida airport MORE for calling President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE a “motherf---er” last week.

“If you're going to do that, then let's talk about it in terms of standards for all members of Congress, which is we ought to conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects well upon our nation and our constituencies. And I don't believe that either of them have. And that's embarrassing,” Mitchell said. 

King’s remarks to The New York Times about the terms white nationalist and white supremacist are far from the first time his comments have led to criticism from fellow Republicans.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” he was quoted as telling the Times in a story published on Thursday.

“Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

King, who has served in Congress since 2003, has repeatedly drawn attention for inflammatory comments about immigration.

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

Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversNational Retail Federation hosts virtual 'store tours' for lawmakers amid coronavirus Stronger patent rights would help promote US technological leadership Republicans to introduce House version of Scott police reform bill MORE (R-Ohio), then the chairman of the House GOP campaign committee, rebuked King a week before Election Day last year for publicly supporting a white nationalist candidate in Toronto and saying to an Austrian publication: “What does this diversity bring that we don't already have?”

King sought to distance himself from white nationalism and white supremacy in both a written statement and his House floor speech. 

“I reject that ideology. I defend American civilization, which is an essential component of western civilization,” King said, adding that “I regret the heartburn that has poured forth upon this Congress and this country and especially in my state and in my congressional district.”

“I've never been anti-immigrant. I have been anti-illegal immigrant and I remain that way,” he said.