Rep. Steve King could be censured after asking why terms like white supremacist and white nationalist were offensive in an interview

  • Republican Rep. Steve King is increasingly likely to face a potential censure motion for repeatedly making remarks widely seen as racist.
  • One House Democrat has already directed his staff to draft a censure.
  • Republican leaders have widely condemned King’s latest remarks, as they have done several times in the past.

WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. Steve King has had no small share of controversies surrounding comments he has made about race, which have typically drawn condemnation from his Republican colleagues.

But King is now in a different, more threatening situation after his latest remarks. A Democratic-controlled House is now looking to censure him, a rare rebuke offered for only the most heinous acts by a member of Congress.

Read more: Republicans and high-profile donors are suddenly abandoning Steve King after years of racial insensitivity

When King questioned how terms like “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization” became offensive in the American vernacular during an interview with the New York Times, he spurred a Republican primary challenger back in his Iowa district.

Top House Republicans condemned King’s recent statements, as they have done many, many times before.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the newly elected chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, called King’s comments “abhorrent and racist and should have no place in our national discourse.”

“Everything about white supremacy and white nationalism goes against who we are as a nation,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement. “Steve’s language is reckless, wrong, and has no place in our society. The Declaration of Independence states that ‘all men are created equal.’ That is a fact. It is self-evident.”

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise told reporters it is “offensive to try to legitimize” the terms King used, adding, “I think it’s important that he rejected that kind of evil, because that’s what it is: evil ideology.”

King addressed the latest comments in a statement Thursday afternoon, denying he is a racist but still identifying himself as a nationalist.

“I want to make one thing abundantly clear; I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define,” King said. “Further, I condemn anyone that supports this evil and bigoted ideology which saw in its ultimate expression the systematic murder of six million innocent Jewish lives.”

“Under any fair political definition, I am simply a Nationalist,” he added. “America’s values are expressed in our founding documents, they are attainable by everyone and we take pride that people of all races, religions, and creeds from around the globe aspire to achieve them. I am dedicated to keeping America this way.”

“This conviction does not make me a white nationalist or a white supremacist,” King continued. “Once again, I reject those labels and the ideology that they define.”

King also took to the House floor Friday afternoon to clarify further, saying he “made a freshman move” by accepting an interview request from the New York Times and that his remarks created an “unnecessary controversy.”

“I regret the heartburn that has poured forth upon this Congress and this country and especially in my state and in my congressional district,” he added. “But the people who know me know I wouldn’t have to even make this statement because they do know me. They know my life, they know my history, they know that I have lived in the same place since 1978. There’s nothing about my family or my history or my neighborhood that would suggest that these false allegations could be supported by any activity whatsoever.”

King could face a potential censure motion from House Democrats

And while the House Republican leadership issued sharp condemnations, the newly powerful Democrats are now thinking that is not enough.

Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio has put his staff in motion to bring a censure motion before the House that would condemn King.

While the government shutdown continues, the censure could still come to the floor. Most censures in the House – the last of which was in 2010 when former Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York was condemned for inaccurate financial disclosures and failure to pay taxes – are due to sexual misconduct and “un-parliamentary language.”

This is not the first time King has faced the threat of censure either. Shortly before the 2018 midterm elections, the Anti-Defamation League sent a letter to then-House Speaker Paul Ryan urging him to censure King for what they described as “antisemitic and offensive not just to the Jewish community, but to all Americans.”

The heightened criticism prompted then-National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman and Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio to withdraw support from King in the lead up to the election. In addition, many of King’s high-profile donors jumped ship as a result.

Whether King finally gets censured is still to be determined, but even if Republicans are not willing to pull the trigger, King’s fate is now in the hands of Democrats who have been looking to rebuke him for years.