Grassley, Ernst condemn Steve King's 'white supremacist' comments

Grassley, Ernst condemn Steve King's 'white supremacist' comments
© Greg Nash

Iowa's two Republican senators have condemned Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingPompeo bemoans anti-Semitic language 'even in the great halls of our own Capitol' Steve King asked if white society is superior: 'I don't have an answer for that' Hateful words demand stronger response from Congress, President Trump MORE's (R-Iowa) comments about white supremacy this week, as members of the GOP continue to distance themselves from the remarks.

Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstCrenshaw to Trump: 'Stop talking about McCain' Stop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court MORE (R) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyDrug prices are a matter of life and death Senate panel to hear from pharmacy middlemen on drug prices Seniors win big with Trump rebate rule  MORE (R) said they both condemned King's comments in an interview in The New York Times, in which he questioned why the terms "white supremacist" and "white nationalist" were considered controversial, with Ernst calling King's remarks racist.

"I condemn Rep. Steve King’s comments on white supremacy; they are offensive and racist - and not representative of our state of Iowa," Ernst tweeted Saturday morning.

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"We are a great nation and this divisiveness is hurting everyone. We cannot continue down this path if we want to continue to be a great nation," she added.

Grassley concurred in a comment to Axios's Jonathan Swan, calling King's remarks "offensive."

“I find it offensive to claim white supremacy. I will condemn it," he reportedly said.

King attempted to defuse the controversy on Friday with a speech on the House floor, during which he condemned the Holocaust and followers of neo-Nazi ideology.

"I want to make one thing abundantly clear; I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define. Further, 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.

"It's true that like the Founding Fathers I am an advocate for Western civilization's values, and that I profoundly believe that America is the greatest tangible expression of these ideals the world has ever seen," King continued on Friday. "Under any fair political definition, I am simply a nationalist."

King said that he regretted the "heartburn" that his comments had caused in his state and across the country. 

The Iowa lawmaker ignited a firestorm after telling the Times in a story published on Thursday: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? 

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

King has a history of controversial comments regarding race and immigration, and previously made headlines when he claimed that diversity was not a "strength" for American society.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump's intraparty feuds divide Republicans House leaders need to modernize Congress for the sake of America 4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll MORE (D-Calif.) has not indicated any punishment yet for King's remarks, but told reporters on Friday that there was "interest" in the House to see King face retribution.

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