House Denounces White Supremacy After Steve King Remarks

WASHINGTON (CN) – The House of Representatives on Tuesday rebuked Rep. Steve King for comments he made to The New York Times questioning how the phrases “white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization” have “become offensive.”

Rep. Steve King speaks in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 23, 2014. On Jan. 14, 2019, Rep. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat and senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said he would introduce a censure resolution over the Iowa Republican’s remarks to the New York Times about white supremacy. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

The House voted 424-1 to approve a resolution stating the chamber “once again rejects white nationalism and white supremacy as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”

The resolution quotes Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln and FBI definitions of white supremacy and white nationalism, juxtaposing them with the comments from King, an Iowa Republican. Other lawmakers have also unveiled resolutions to censure King, a far harsher punishment than the rebuke passed Tuesday. 

Illinois Democrat Rep. Bobby Rush, who has called for King to be censured, was the only member to vote against the resolution.

King made the comments that started the scandal during an interview for a story The New York Times ran on his hardline anti-immigration stances. The words quickly drew widespread rebuke, including from Republican leadership in Washington.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization – how did that language become offensive,” King asked. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement Monday that King would not be seated on any committees in the upcoming Congress as a result of the remarks. King had been a member of House Agriculture, Small Business and Judiciary committees and served as the chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice in the last Congress.

King said in a statement Monday the remarks have been “completely mischaracterized” and that he only meant to wonder how the phrase “Western civilization” became offensive.

“When I used the word ‘that,’ it was a reference only to Western civilization and not to any previously stated ideology, all of which I have denounced,” King said in a statement. “My record as a vocal advocate for Western civilization is nearly as full as my record in defense of freedom of speech.”

It is not the first time that King has drawn claims of racism for his public comments, culminating last year when the National Republican Congressional Committee pulled funding from his campaign. King has lamented demographic changes in the United States as a result of immigration, and March 2017 tweeted “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

He also referred to immigrants from Mexico as “dirt” during his re-election campaign and has spoken favorably of right-wing politicians in Europe, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. 

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