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 KingThirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill Overnight Energy — Presented by Job Creators Network — House Republican tries to force Green New Deal vote | 'Awkward' hearing to vet Interior nominee and watchdog | House panel approves bill to stop drilling in Arctic refuge Steve King: One 'good side' of climate change could be shrinking deserts 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 ErnstSenate defense bill would make military sexual harassment standalone crime Congress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit Trump mulling visit to ethanol refinery later this month: report MORE (R) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump Citizenship and Immigration Services head out at agency Trump-Pelosi fight threatens drug pricing talks Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access 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 PelosiPelosi uses Trump to her advantage Fake Pelosi video sparks fears for campaigns Trump goes scorched earth against impeachment talk 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.”