Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) on Saturday defended his use of a derogatory term toward Japanese in a cable-news appearance, saying that he was trying to critique the “uninformed” views that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump espouses.
King, who supports Trump nominally but is refusing to campaign for him, said that his use of the word “Japs” was meant to criticize the presidential candidate’s policy positions as out of line with the “nuance” required to be the leader of the free world and more in line with a working-class man at the end of a bar espousing his worldview.
“It was basically sarcasm, satire,” King said in a telephone interview Saturday. “Is this what [Trump] seriously thinks, or is this the guy at the end of the bar?”
Some groups have criticized King’s comments since his appearance Friday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” On the show, King highlighted his opposition to Trump’s proposal to pull U.S. troops out of Japan and South Korea and instead equip them with nuclear weapons as a deterrent against China and North Korea.
King characterized Trump’s views like this: “Oh, screw them, bomb them, kill them, pull out, bring them home. You know, why pay for the Japs, why pay for the Koreans?’ ”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, told the Hill newspaper that “the J word is disgusting and harkens back to a shameful time in our history,” including the internment camps for Japanese Americans.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group that has clashed with King for more than five years on his views toward Muslims and homeland security, called on the Long Island congressman to apologize.
King declined to apologize and said he would make the same point again if he had to do the interview over again. The lawmaker, who is a military hawk but is more moderate on fiscal issues, said that he specifically disagrees with Trump’s ideas on pulling back from the Pacific and wanted to make that point on MSNBC.
“Ironically, it was in defense of Japanese,” King said in the Saturday interview.
He said that, having grown up in Queens in a working-class neighborhood, he appreciated that most people in a typical bar have more realistic views of diplomacy than Trump does, but there’s usually at least one person there who adopts Trump’s nativist tone: “Bomb them, kill them, screw them,” he explained, suggesting that the end-of-the-bar opinion wasn’t particularly dangerous until Trump rode those views into the presidential nomination.
CAIR has accused King of being biased against Muslims ever since he began hearings in 2011 to examine Islam and mosques inside the United States in the wake of the 2009 shootings by a Muslim American soldier at Fort Hood, in Killeen Tex.
Yet King said that one of his biggest policy differences with Trump is his call to ban all Muslims from entering the country, saying that was “just crazy” and would alienate Saudi Arabia and other Middle East nations that have aided the U.S. military in the fight against terrorists in that region.
“These are some of our closest allies,” he said.
In general, King said he finds himself in similar territory as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who has been highly critical of both Trump’s policy positions and his tone toward women and minorities in the campaign. King has gone a key step further by saying that he will live up to his previous pledges to support whoever secured the Republican nomination.
But King has no intention of openly campaigning for Trump and said he would not reprise his role in 2004 and 2008, when he was a frequent surrogate on political talk shows for the reelection of George W. Bush and for the campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), respectively.
“I said all along I was going to support the nominee of the party,” he said. “As a Republican, I can’t be campaigning for him.”