Republican Congressman Steve King took to the floor of the U.S. House today to respond to a New York Times story in which he’s quoted talking about the terms white nationalist, white supremacy and western civilization. King, a Republican from the western Iowa community of Kiron, said he is an “American nationalist” and rejects the ideology of white supremacy and white nationalism.
“I regret the heartburn that has poured forth upon this congress and this country and especially in my state and in my congressional district, but the people who know me know I wouldn’t even have to make this statement because they know me,” King said. “They know my life. They know my history.”
King, a former state senator, was first elected to the U.S. House in 2002. King said today that he “made a freshman mistake” in talking to the New York Times.
“Under any fair political definition, I am simply an American nationalist,” King said during his House floor speech.
The newspaper quoted King asking rhetorically why the terms white nationalism, white supremacy and western civilization had developed negative connotations.
“The New York Times is suggesting that I’m 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,” King said, reading from a written statement similar to one he issued Thursday. “Further, I condemn anyone that supports this evil and bigoted ideology which saw in its ultimate expression the systematic murder of six million Jewish lives.”
King said he is an advocate for the values of western civilization. The top three Republican in the U.S. House have denounced King in the past 24 hours. Republican Tim Scott, an African American who represents South Carolina in the U.S Senate, said in The Washington Post that “silence is no longer acceptable” when it comes to the things King says.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is urging Republicans to “actively support” King’s primary opponent, Republican State Senator Randy Feenstra. Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann has called Feenstra a “legitimate” challenger, but Kaufmann said the party will be neutral in the race.
“The one thing I will not comment on because I cannot and that is I can’t tell you what is in Steve King’s heart,” Kaufmann told reporters this afternoon. “I think everyone deserves to be heard and to have an apology sincerely considered. I mean, that’s what the voters of the 4th district are going to do.”
Kaufmann said he wants to make it clear there are some phrases that do not represent “the American spirit” and Kaufmann puts “white supremacy” in that category.
“If you said ‘white supremacy’ in reconstruction days, it would essentially have about the same connotation that it does today,” Kaufmann said after taping IPTV’s “Iowa Press” program. “And I’m telling you that the Republican Party in 1870 did not support that and I’m telling you that the Republican Party in 2019 doesn’t support that.”
Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price has repeatedly called King an embarrassment to the state of Iowa.
“You can’t have it both ways and the fact is that the Republican Party has always stood by Steve King,” Price said during tape of IPTV’s “Iowa Press” program. “This rhetoric, the latest rhetoric, is not anything new from Steve King. We’ve heard this for years and years and years.”
Feenstra, the state senator who’s stepped forward to challenge King, is using the hashtag #retireSteveKing” on twitter and this afternoon Feenstra tweeted a link to a National Review opinion piece titled, “Steve King’s Bigotry Is the Antithesis of American Ideals.”