Rep. Steve King faces bipartisan backlash as Republicans and Democrats condemn his comments on white supremacy
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says there is no place in Congress or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy and that King’s statements are unworthy of his elected position.
The House of Representatives formally rebuked Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King on Tuesday, overwhelmingly passing a resolution of disapproval for comments he made about white supremacy.
Even King voted for the measure, though he strongly objected to GOP leaders stripping him of his committee assignments a day earlier.
The final vote was 424-1, with only Democratic Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush voting no. Rush said he wanted to censure King instead — a stronger, but still largely symbolic, step.
The resolution states that the House “once again rejects White nationalism and White supremacy as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.” The text of the resolution does not explicitly criticize King.
The condemnation of the comments made by King, long a controversial figure in the House, has been swift and bipartisan — and might not be over yet.
"I think expulsion would be fine with me," Democratic South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, who drafted the disapproval measure, said after the vote.
King, a nine-term Iowa congressman, in explaining his vote against himself, said on the House floor that he agrees with Clyburn that white supremacy is an evil that cannot be ignored.
"I want to compliment the gentleman from South Carolina for bringing up this resolution," King said, referring to Clyburn. "It’s true and it’s just." He added that he would have supported a stronger resolution of disapproval.
King, 69, asserted that the ideology of white supremacy "never shows up in my head" and that he does "not know how it could possibly come out of my mouth."
Clyburn has said the House will also shortly consider the several additional pending censure resolutions against King.
A censure — which is more severe than a reprimand or resolution of disapproval, but not as severe as expulsion — would be a more dramatic step. The House has only censured 23 members in history, most recently, former Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., in December 2010.
Meanwhile, the No. 3 House Republican suggested that King leave Congress. Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney on Tuesday said she thinks King "should find another line of work."
FILE – Rep. James Clyburn, D-SC, introduced the resolution of disapproval against King that passed Tuesday.
The controversy stems from a recent interview. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King asked The New York Times in an interview last week. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
King has since said he was only referring to the term "Western civilization" when asking how the language became offensive. "Clearly, I was only referencing Western Civilization classes. No one ever sat in a class listening to the merits of white nationalism and white supremacy," he said in a statement this week.
But the remarks garnered swift bipartisan condemnation. Although National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) chairman Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota has said it's "too early" for party leaders to weigh in on the 2020 race in Iowa, Republican primary challengers have already surfaced in the hopes of unseating King, who only narrowly held onto his seat in the 2018 midterms.
"There can be no room for racist and bigoted language aimed at hate and harm in our national discourse, and I join in the wholehearted condemnation of Rep. Steve King’s comments," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement.
"I strongly support efforts to make clear that this House will not tolerate such hateful speech, and I am urging all Members to vote for Whip Clyburn’s resolution today," Hoyer continued. "Congress must set the tone for the country, and when a Member of this body diminishes it through bigoted and threatening speech, it diminishes us all as a nation.”
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King was stripped of his committee assignments by his fellow House Republicans Monday evening, which King characterized as an assault on his freedom of speech. He served on the Agriculture, Small Business and Judiciary committees in the last Congress, and he chaired Judiciary's subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.
"We will not tolerate this type of language in the Republican Party … or in the Democratic Party as well," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters. "I watched what Steve King said and we took action."
King's remarks last week were not the first time he has seemingly expressed sympathy with white supremacists. In October, King publicly endorsed a white nationalist candidate for mayor in Toronto.
The candidate, Faith Goldy, has promoted books espousing anti-Semitic ideas and defending the white supremacist “14 words” slogan, according to the Toronto Star.
King also has drawn criticism for posts on Twitter, such as in 2017 when he wrote that “culture and demographics are our destiny” and said we “can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies.”
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In 2013, he commented that while he has some sympathyfor some illegal immigrants, "they aren't all valedictorians, they weren't all brought in by their parents — for every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."
And in September, King came under renewed scrutiny after traveling to Austria and giving an interview in which he said, “If we don't defend Western Civilization, then we will become subjugated by the people who are the enemies of faith, the enemies of justice.”
In October, just days before the midterm elections, the then-chairman of the NRCC accused King of aligning with white supremacist views.
“Congressman Steve King’s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate,” Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, who has since been replaced by Emmer after declining to seek another term, tweeted. “We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.”
Fox News' Chad Pergram, Matt Richardson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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