U.S. Rep. Steve King says a decision by House Republican leaders to remove him from several committees in response to comments he made about white nationalism and white supremacy is "a political decision that ignores the truth."
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Monday that King, who is in his ninth term representing Iowa, will not be given committee assignments in the Congress that began this month. King had served on the Agriculture, Small Business and Judiciary committees.
The fallout against King stems from an interview published in The New York Times last week in which King lamented, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?"
But his offensive remarks date back to 2006 when he compared immigrants to livestock.
King said in a statement late Monday that his New York Times quote was mischaracterized, and that his remark about "that language" becoming offensive was only in reference to "Western civilization."
The decision Monday by Republican leaders came with condemnation for the veteran lawmaker from both sides of the isle.
"There is no place in the Republican Party, the Congress or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy of any kind," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement that for a number of years King "has made increasingly more xenophobic and racist statements," and that "there must be a price for shameless bigotry."
Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois was the first of three House Democrats to propose a measure sanctioning King.
"As with any animal that is rabid, Steve King should be set aside and isolated,'' Rush said in a statement that also called on Republicans to strip King of his committee memberships until he apologizes.
"My resolution to censure Representative King sends a clear message to the American people — this Congress will not turn a blind eye to his repugnant and racist behavior," Rush said.
Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, and House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, have also said they will introduce resolutions against King.
On Friday, King said on the House floor that the interview with the Times "also was a discussion of other terms that have been used, almost always unjustly labeling otherwise innocent people. The word racist, the word Nazi, the word fascist, the phrase white nationalists, the phrase white supremacists.''
King said he was only wondering aloud: "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?''
Iowa Republican state senator Randy Feenstra has announced plans to challenge King in 2020.