Republican House leaders are pushing back against comments made by Republican Congressman Steve King.
King, during an interview on Thursday, asked why some terms tossed in political circles today became offensive, including “white supremacist.”
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King asked as the Hill reports. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise denounced King’s statement.
“Everything about white supremacy and white nationalism goes against who we are as a nation,” McCarthy said as the Washington Examiner reports. “Steve’s language is reckless, wrong, and has no place in our society. The Declaration of Independence states that ‘all men are created equal.’ That is a fact. It is self-evident.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said that it was “offensive” that King would “try to legitimize” that kind of rhetoric, adding that white supremacy is “evil.” King had told the New York Times he wasn’t sure how terms such as “white nationalist, white supremacy, [and] Western civilization” became offensive language.
“I think it’s offensive to try to legitimize those terms,” Scalise told reporters in his office in the Capitol. “I think it’s important that he rejected that kind of evil, because that’s what it is: evil ideology.”
As Des Moines Register reports, other of King’s Republican colleagues condemned his statement including Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Michigan Congressman Justin Amash.
Cheney called King’s remarks “abhorrent and racist” while Amash said: “This is an embrace of racism, and it has no place in Congress or anywhere.”
Amid backlash, King took to Twitter after making the comments to say he was misunderstood. In his statement on social media, he said he did not wish to be associated with the terms he mentioned.
“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,” King said in the follow-up statement.
“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. Under any fair political definition, I am simply a Nationalist,” the congressman from Iowa continued.
And: “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.”
“This conviction does not make me a white nationalist or a white supremacist. Once again, I reject those labels and the ideology that they define,” King concluded.