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 KingGOP rep in op-ed: ‘Some people affiliated with our party have made racist comments’ Steve King fundraising off controversy surrounding white supremacy comments Steve King's primary challenger raises more than 0k in first 10 days of campaign 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 ErnstTrump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  McConnell: Senate will not recess if government still shutdown Barr calls for 'barrier system' on border MORE (R) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyDem calls for Cohen to testify before Senate panel over explosive report Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees IRS shutdown plan fails to quell worries 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 PelosiDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Fox’s Wallace to Pence: Is government shutdown all about ‘leverage?' Former House Republican: Trump will lose the presidency if he backs away from border security 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.”