Steve King: 2020 presidential candidates, GOP challenger, condemn 'rape and incest' remarks

Linh Ta and Nick Coltrain

U.S. Rep. Steve King is under fire by both Republicans and Democrats for comments he made defending no abortion exemption for rape or incest, during a meeting with a conservative group on Wednesday.

While speaking with the Westside Conservative Club, King said people may not currently exist if not for rape and incest throughout history.

"What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?" he said in Urbandale, Iowa.

More: U.S. Rep. Steve King: If not for rape and incest, 'would there be any population left?'

King, who is Catholic, said that just because conception happened through rape or incest, it does not mean the result isn't a person.

"It's not the baby's fault for the sin of the father, or of the mother," he said.

Iowa Republican challengers condemns King's comments

State Sen. Randy Feenstra, a Republican challenger for King's seat in the 4th District, spoke out against his remarks, even though he is anti-abortion.

"I am 100% pro-life but Congressman King's bizarre comments and behavior diminish our message and damage our cause. We can't afford to hand the 4th District to Nancy Pelosi and her allies in Congress," Feenstra said in a statement. "President Trump needs defenders in Congress, not distractions. In the State Senate, I've been an effective conservative who has fought for our values and delivered conservative results. I'll do the same in Congress.""

More: Iowa's Steve King has a history of controversial remarks. Here are some that riled people up.

Jeremy Taylor, a Sioux City Republican also challenging King in the primary, said King’s statements jeopardize his party’s chance of holding onto the seat. He said he would be “a champion for the unborn.”

"As a US Army chaplain, my passion for this issue is at the core of who I am,” Taylor said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Congressman Steve King continues to be in the press for all of the wrong reasons. His comments feed the left, the mainstream media, and puts Republican control of this seat and our ability to take back Congress in jeopardy. We must nominate a conservative who can win.”

Iowa Democratic challenger calls King's remarks 'hateful ideology'

Democrat J.D. Scholten, who’s making a second bid to win King’s seat, said in a statement that King is again putting “his selfish, hateful ideology above” the Iowans in the district.

“Excusing violence — in any way — is entirely unacceptable,” Scholten said in the statement. “Here in Iowa, we stand strong together in the face of violence, and strive to create a welcoming and safe community for all people. His comments are disrespectful to survivors and don’t reflect Iowan values.

Iowa Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer, King's colleague, calls comments 'cruel'

Finkenauer, who said King was an "embarrassment" shortly before she was elected, said on Twitter King's comments were "incredibly cruel & disrespectful to survivors. Steve King & his values, his rhetoric, & his disdain for decency is a far cry from the Iowa I know. He doesn’t represent who we are & he continues to be an embarrassment to our state & federal delegation.

She further said: "In this discussion about 'Who we are as Iowans' & the narrative that King represents our values as a state because he was re-elected, please #ia01 . We are better than his rhetoric & I’m offended by his association to our state. This isn’t about D or R, it’s about decency."

2020 Democratic presidential candidates rally behind Scholten, call on King to resign

A number of Democratic presidents are linking to donations for Scholten's campaign or calling on King to resign from his position in Congress.

The Iowa director for U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s presidential campaign called for King to resign for the “vile” statements.

Booker, a Democrat representing New Jersey, endorsed Scholten.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock tweeted that women have autonomy over their bodies and included a link for donations to Scholten’s campaign.

“Every woman has the right over her own body — and voters have the right to reject this man for good,” Bullock tweeted.

During his campaign event in Tipton, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg told the press gaggle that it shouldn't be difficult for King to "come out against rape and incest," he said on Wednesday.

"You would think it would be pretty easy to come out against rape and incest. Then again, you'd think it'd be pretty easy to come out against white nationalism. So this is just one more example why there needs to be a sane representative in that district, and that's why I think J.D. Scholten will be an excellent public servant for people of that district," Buttigieg said. 

Presidential candidate Julián Castro tweeted that King “has no place in Congress,” and that King denigrates the office.

He also offered his support to Scholten in the form of a road trip “to unseat this bigot.”

Castro is the former Secretary of Human and Urban Development in the Obama administration.

Former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland’s national press secretary called the comments “vile, repulsive and unsurprising,” and noted that Delaney called for King’s resignation in January. 

“Iowans deserve a member of Congress whose vision and moral compass is based in the 21st century, not the 1850’s,” Delaney’s press secretary, Michael Starr Hopkins, said in the statement before voicing support for Scholten’s campaign.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand bluntly said on Twitter, "You are a disgrace. Resign," and tagged King in the post.

In a following tweet, she posted a donation link for Scholten's campaign, saying all Iowa 4th District constituents and women deserve a better leader.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota tweeted support for Scholten and said it's time for King to go. She also called his comments “reprehensible.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted that "Right now is a really good time to help make sure this election is (Steve King's) last," and posted a link to donate to Scholten.

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas urged support for Scholten in light of King’s comments.

“No matter where you live, you know there’s no place for Steve King’s racism, bigotry, and hatred in Congress,” O’Rourke tweeted. He added a link to Scholten’s online fundraising page.

U.S. Bernie Sanders called King “a racist, a misogynist and a disgrace to the country,” and that he should not be in Congress.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Steve King: Iowa challenger, Dems condemn 'rape and incest' remarks

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