Rep. Steve King of Iowa attempted Friday to explain his recent comments about white supremacy, after the remarks drew fire from Republicans and Democrats alike.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King told The New York Times for an article published Thursday. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
The nine-term Republican congressman subsequently triggered condemnation from both sides of the aisle prior to ultimately responding to the article on the House of Representatives floor Friday afternoon.
“One phrase in that long article has created an unnecessary controversy,” Mr. King told Congress. “That was my mistake.”
“It was about how those words got plugged into our dialogue, not when the words became offensive,” Mr. King continued. “It’s 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?
Mr. King did not say directly apologize for the remarks during his roughly six-minute House speech, however.
“I regret the heartburn that has poured forth upon this Congress and this country and especially in my state and in my congressional district,” Mr. King added.
“I reject that ideology,” Mr. King said of white nationalism and white supremacy. “I defend American civilization, which is an essential component of Western civilization.”
Mr. King has been criticized in the past for comments considered disparaging of immigrants and minorities, although publication of The Times report Thursday evening triggered fresh scrutiny from across the political spectrum.
Jeb Bush, the former Republican governor of Florida, condemned Mr. King on Twitter for his “unconscionable, racist remarks,” tweeting: “Republican leaders must actively support a worthy primary opponent to defeat King, because he won’t have the decency to resign.”
Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican and chairwoman of the House GOP conference, called Mr. Kelly’s remarks “abhorrent” and “racist,” and Kim Reynolds, the Republican governor of Iowa, said she would not endorse the congressman in 2020.
Rep. Tim Ryan, Ohio Democrat, and Ben Shapiro, a right-wing media personality, have separately suggested Mr. Kelly be formally censured for the remarks, meanwhile.
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