Iowa Senators Grassley, Ernst: 'Steve King's comments are racist'

House of Representatives

DES MOINES, Iowa (KCCI) - Iowa's two Republican senators have condemned comments by U.S. Representative Steve King, calling his comments to the New York Times "racist".

King, who represents Iowa's fourth congressional district is known for his hard-line stances on immigration, abortion and gun rights, was quoted in The New York Times saying, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization – how did that language become offensive?”

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican, in a tweet Saturday morning condemned the congressman’s remarks, saying “they are offensive and racist” and “not representative of our state.”

“We are a great nation and this divisiveness is hurting everyone,” Ernst said. “We cannot continue down this path if we want to continue to be a great nation.”

Axios’ Jonathan Swan tweeted that U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican, told the publication that he finds it “offensive to claim white supremacy. I will condemn it.”

Ernst and Grassley join a chorus of Republicans chastising Iowa’s longtime 4th Congressional District representative, who appeared on the House floor Friday.

“One phrase in that long article has created an unnecessary controversy. That was my mistake,” King told his colleagues. King said terms describing bigotry, such as racism, are unfairly applied to “otherwise innocent” people.

The chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, Jeff Kaufmann, told the Mason City Globe Gazette that the term “white supremacy” and what it stands for “is not the spirit of the Republican Party or the spirit of this country.” He said he thinks the use of the terminology is “inappropriate.”

GOP Sen. Tim Scott, of South Carolina, said in an op-ed column that King’s comments and those like them are a blemish on the country and the Republican Party.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, tweeted that King's remarks are "abhorrent and racist and should have no place in our national discourse."

And Rep. Justin Amash, of Michigan, said, "This is an embrace of racism, and it has no place in Congress or anywhere."

King later tweeted that he regards white nationalism and white supremacy as "evil."

“When people with opinions similar to King’s open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole,” Scott wrote.

King, a ninth-term congressman, already faces a primary challenger in 2020: three-term Republican state Sen. Randy Feenstra.