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Steve King election results

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, grabs a bite to eat while talking to supporters during an election watch party held in a Sioux City conference center Nov. 6, 2018. King defeated Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten. 

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Friday the chamber might discipline Rep. Steve King as the Iowa 4th District Republican spent a second straight day in damage control over remarks in which he asked when the term "white supremacist" became offensive.

“We’ll see what we do about Steve King, but nonetheless, nothing is shocking anymore, right?" Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol.

The California Democrat's comments came after King took to the House floor Friday to again deny he is either a white supremacist or white nationalist.

"I want to make one thing abundantly clear; I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define," King told the House. "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. Under any fair political definition, I am simply a Nationalist."

King said he made a "freshman mistake," taking a call from a New York Times reporter, who wrote a story on immigration and race in which King was quoted saying, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?"

“One phrase in that long article has created an unnecessary controversy. That was my mistake,” King told his colleagues. 

In his seven-minute floor speech, King did not apologize for the phrase, but said he regrets the "heartburn that has poured forth upon this Congress and this country and especially in my state and in my congressional district."

King, whose outspoken views on illegal immigration and support for far-right parties and politicians have sparked controversy in the past, has come under fierce bipartisan criticism with his latest published remarks.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the sole African-American Republican senator, cast King’s remarks and those like them as a blemish on the country and the Republican Party, which has long had a frosty relationship with black voters.

“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,” Scott wrote in an op-ed column in the Washington Post.  "King’s comments are not conservative views but separate views that should be ridiculed at every turn possible."

House Republican leaders also swiftly condemned King’s remarks as racist. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, said in a statement on Thursday said that "Steve’s language is reckless, wrong, and has no place in our society."

The latest controversy has further imperiled King's standing with the GOP and in the House.

This week, state Sen. Randy Feenstra of Hull announced he would challenge King in a GOP primary in 2020, saying the conservative 4th District doesn't need any more "sideshows or distractions."

"Another day, another embarrassment," Feenstra tweeted Friday. "This behavior hurts our district and our conservative cause. We need an effective conservative. Congressman King isn't."

Two other Republicans also are considering entering the 4th District race -- Rick Sanders, of Ames, and Bret Richards, of Irwin. Sanders serves on the Story County Board of Supervisors. Richards is a former businessman and mayor of Irwin.

In November, King survived the closest race of of his political career, edging Democrat J.D. Scholten, by 3 percent, in a congressional district in which registered Republicans hold about a 70,000-voter advantage over Democrats.

On Friday, Jeb Bush, a former Florida governor and 2016 presidential candidate, called on Republican leaders to "actively support a worthy primary opponent to defeat King, because he won't have the decency to resign." 

"It’s not enough to condemn @SteveKingIA's unconscionable, racist remarks," Bush said in a tweet.

Some House Democrats have called on the House to censure King, a punishment spelled out under the Constitution that allows the chamber to express formal disapproval of a member's conduct. The procedure requires the accused member to stand in the well of the House chamber while a resolution is read aloud. In the history of the House, only 23 members have been censured. The most recent was Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-New York, in 2010 for failure to pay taxes, improper solicitation of funds and inaccurate filing of financial disclosure reports. 

Pelosi declined to answer what type of action the House might take related to King.

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

King suggested Friday he’s been misunderstood. He said the foundation of the New York Times interview was partly a Sept. 12 tweet in which he wrote: ”‘Nazi’ is injected into Leftist talking points because the worn out & exhausted “racist” is over used & applied to everyone who lacks melanin & who fail to virtue signal at the requisite frequency & decibels. But...Nazis were socialists & Leftists are socialists.”

In his floor speech Friday, King said the Times interview “also was discussion of other terms that have been used, almost always unjustly labeling otherwise innocent people. The word racist, the word Nazi, the word fascist, the phrase white nationalists, the phrase white supremacists.”

King said he was only wondering aloud: “How did that offensive language get injected into our political dialogue? Who does that, how does it get done, how do they get by with laying labels like this on people?”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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