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Republican Rep. Steve King asks why white supremacy is offensive

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Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who has long demonized immigrants and decried diversity and multiculturalism, asked why white supremacy had “become offensive” in an interview The New York Times published on Thursday.

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

King’s remarks sparked a new wave of condemnation — on both the left and the right.

Over the past year, King has endorsed a white nationalist running for mayor of Toronto in Canada, repeatedly retweeted white supremacist and neo-Nazi accounts on Twitter, and parroted Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban’s remarks that “mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life but a lower one.”

Some Republicans, including conservative activist Ben Shapiro, suggested on Thursday that Congress should “censure” King — to formally reprimand him for his offensive comments.

In the past, King has also found himself in hot water for displaying the Confederate battle flag on his congressional office desk, despite representing Iowa, which fought for the Union during the Civil War.

And he’s developed relationships with far-right leaders in Europe, including Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, who has called to shut down mosques, and Marine Le Pen of France, an anti-immigrant activist who has compared Muslims praying in French streets to Nazi occupation.

“Steve King is basically an open white nationalist at this point,” wrote Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, according to the Times.

King has long denied being a racist, and issued a statement following the publication of The Times story on Thursday in which he said he “reject[s] those labels and the ideology that they define.” He argued he is “simply a Nationalist” and “an advocate for Western Civilization’s values.”

Last fall, King’s actions provoked condemnation from some prominent Republicans, including National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman and Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, who called on Americans “to stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms” days before the 2018 midterm elections.

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

Several donors, including companies like Purina and Land O’Lakes, dropped their support for King shortly before the election.

But many allies of the lawmaker, including the president, have done no such thing. Trump has long supported King, whose anti-immigrant rhetoric he frequently espouses.

King called the criticism of him last fall a plot “orchestrated by nasty, desperate, and dishonest fake news. Their ultimate goal is to flip the House and impeach Donald Trump. Establishment Never Trumpers are complicit.”

The eight-term incumbent won re-election in 2018, although by just three points — his narrowest margin of victory since he took office 16 years ago. And he’s now attracted a credible GOP 2020 primary challenger, State Sen. Randy Feenstra.

Joe Perticone contributed reporting.

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