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“Action Will Be Taken,” Republican Leader Warns Following Rep. Steve King’s Comments About White Supremacy

Rep. Steve King was elected to Congress in 2002. (Photo: WHO-HD)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy promised Sunday that “action will be taken” against Rep. Steve King, a 9-term Kiron Republican, who faces widespread criticism for his comments about white supremacy and white nationalism in an interview published in last Thursday’s New York Times.

McCarthy’s comments add to what has become the most bipartisan, widespread condemnation of King’s behavior during his 16 years in Congress.

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

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, McCarthy said, “Action will be taken.” 

McCarthy didn’t specify as to whether he, as the top ranking Republican leader in the U.S. House, would strip King of his committee assignments or whether he would either implement or seek some other punishment for King’s comments. But McCarthy did say that he has a meeting scheduled with King on Monday. “I’m having a serious conversation with Congressman Steve King on his future and role in this Republican Party,” McCarthy said.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who won the 2016 Iowa Caucuses with King serving as his national campaign co-chair, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, “What Steve King said was stupid. It was stupid. It was hurtful. It was wrong. And he needs to stop. I think all of us ought to be united, regardless of party, in saying, white supremacism, white nationalism, is hatred. It is bigotry. It is evil. It is wrong. And I think we need that clarity. And I’m certainly going to urge everyone to provide that clarity.”

Iowa’s top Republicans, who all supported King’s re-election in 2018, have condemned his recent remarks. U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, a first term member from Red Oak, called his comments “offensive and racist.”

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, a 7-term member from New Hartford, told Axios on Saturday that he also found King’s words to be “offensive.”

President and CEO of the Family Leader Bob Vander Plaats, a three-time Republican candidate for governor who is one of the state’s most recognizable conservative voices, said he could offer no excuse for King’s words.

U.S. Senator Tim Scott, an African-American member from South Carolina, wrote an op-ed piece Friday in the Washington Post because of King’s comments.  

“Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism — it is because of our silence when things like this are said,” Scott wrote as he criticized other Republicans’ reluctance to speak out publicly against comments like King used.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said Friday that she senses “interest” in the House to punish King, but did not offer what type of punishment she could seek.

Former Republican Florida governor and 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush, the son of one former president and brother of another, condemned King’s actions and called for a Republican to defeat King in his 2020 re-election campaign.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, announced last week that he would run against King in 2020. 

Governor Kim Reynolds told Channel 13 on Wednesday, before King’s latest incendiary remarks, that she would not back her 2018 campaign co-chair in his 2020 re-election.

Ernst, Grassley and the Republican Party of Iowa also confirmed that they will remain neutral in King's re-election.

King addressed his controversial comments on the House floor on Friday. He stated his comments were taken out of context and that he rejects white supremacist ideology.

"I reject that history; I reject that ideology," King said. "I defend American civilization, which is an essential component of western civilization."

"I regret the heartburn that has poured forth upon this Congress and this country and especially in my state and in my congressional district," King said on the floor. "But the people who do know me know I wouldn't even have to make this statement because they know my life, they know my history, they know that I have lived in the same place since 1978."