Steve King defiantly rejected what he described as an "unprecedented assault” on his freedom of speech while simultaneously supporting a resolution in Congress condemning his own racist remarks.
The Iowa Republican — whose has a history of controversial rhetoric — sparked a backlash after an interview with the New York Times was published last week in which the congressman appeared to lament why language like white nationalist and white supremacist had "become offensive".
Mr King took to the House floor to seemingly clarify his controversial statements before the vote. “I regret that we are in this place,” the congressman said, urging his colleagues to support the resolution brought by Republican James Clyburn titled, “Rejecting White Nationalism and White Supremacy.”
“I agree with every word that you have put in this,” he continued. “It’s an honest and a direct resolution put together to address a subject that has been too long before the public dialogue in this country.”
“I want to ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, let's vote for this resolution. I'm putting up a yes on the board here,” Mr King added.
The resolution passed 416-1, with Democrat Bobby Rush saying it did not go far enough to punish Mr King for the slate of comments he has made in past years.
While the resolution does not punish Mr King in any way, GOP leadership decided to strip him of his seats on committees in the new Congress, effectively removing him from the Judiciary, Agriculture and Small Business Committees.
“The House Republicans denounce his language. We do not believe in his language and we’ve decided that he will not serve on any” committees, said Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday, stopping short of calling on Mr King to resign.
Other key Republicans urged Mr King to step down, however, including Liz Cheney, the number three Republican in the House.
My Statement on Kevin McCarthy’s Unprecedented Assault on my Freedom of Speech. pic.twitter.com/0R0vP6MoWT— Steve King (@SteveKingIA)January 15, 2019
“I think that he should find another line of work,” she said Tuesday.
The outcry surrounding Mr King’s comments arrived after he said in the Times interview: “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?”
The comments were met with swift backlash from Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said on Monday: “Rep. King’s statements are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position. If he doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive, he should find another line of work.”
It does not appear Mr King’s support for Tuesday’s resolution will put an end to the issues surrounding his remarks. As more Republicans call for his resignation, including Senator Mitt Romney, new controversial videos and interviews of Mr King continue to surface online, causing vocal backlash from Democrats and the left.
In an Op-Ed for the Washington Post, Tim Scott — the only sitting black Republican senator — wrote, “Why are Republicans accused of Racism? Because we’re silent on things like this.”
The resolution passed in the House denounces Mr King’s remarks and describes his comments as “hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”
The congressman said his remarks has not been perceived the way he intended them to.