KIRON, Iowa -- Rep. Steve King became embroiled in another national controversy Thursday after the Iowa 4th District congressman seemed to defend white supremacy in a New York Times article.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said in an interview with the Times. "Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
King, who has been widely criticized in the past for his support of far-right parties and politicians, pushed backed against the Times' suggestion "that I am an advocate for white nationalism and white supremacy."
"I want to make one thing abundantly clear; I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define," the Kiron Republican said. "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.''
The Times interviewed King for a story that delved into his past outspoken comments and views on immigration and race. The article suggested that King, who has pushed for a crackdown on illegal immigration since he was first elected to the House in 2002, paved the way for politicians like President Donald Trump, who has resisted calls to reopen the federal government until Congress approves border security measures that include $5 billion for a barrier at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Like the Founding Fathers, King said he is an "advocate for Western Civilization’s values."
"I profoundly believe that America is the greatest tangible expression of these ideals the World has ever seen. Under any fair political definition, I am simply a Nationalist," he said in the statement. "America’s values are expressed in our founding documents, they are attainable by everyone and we take pride that people of all races, religions, and creeds from around the globe aspire to achieve them. I am dedicated to keeping America this way."
But King said his conviction "does not make me a white nationalist or a white supremacist."
"Once again, I reject those labels and the ideology that they define," he said. "As I told the New York Times, ‘it’s not about race; it’s never been about race.’ "
A bipartisan chorus of King's colleagues condemned the language he used in the nation's largest daily newspaper.
"These comments are abhorrent and racist and should have no place in our national discourse," Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, said in a tweet. Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, this month became the House Republican Conference Chair, the third-highest post in GOP House leadership.
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, called for the House to formally censure King "for his racists remarks."
"These remarks should also be repudiated by Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and all of Rep. King's colleagues," Ryan said in tweet. "Support for white supremacist ideology should have no place in Congress."
The political fallout came a day after a prominent Northwest Iowa Republican state senator announced he would challenge King in the 2020 primary.
In his campaign announcement, Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, did not mention King by name but alluded to the many controversies surrounding the nine-term congressman, who eked out a 3 percent victory in November's general election in the state's most Republican district.
"Today, Iowa's 4th District doesn't have a voice in Washington because our current representative's caustic nature has left us without a seat at the table," Feenstra, an assistant Senate Majority Leader, said. "We don't need any more sideshows or distractions. We need to start winning for Iowa families."
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, a small Shelby County town.
In November, King survived the closest race of of his political career, edging Democrat J.D. Scholten, a former professional baseball player making his first run for public office, 51 percent to 47 percent in a district where, as of January, registered Republicans hold about a 70,000-voter advantage over Democrats.