The ensuing public uproar prompted numerous Republicans to distance themselves from King — even though he has a long history of making offensive and inflammatory comments about race and white nationalism.
“That is not the party of Lincoln,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said of King’s remarks at the time. “It is definitely not American. All people are created equal in America, and we want to take a very strong stance about that.”
On McCarthy’s recommendation, King was stripped of his posts on the House Judiciary, Agriculture and Small Business committees.
A month later, King is hoping McCarthy will have a change of heart — one fueled by the prayers of his constituents, the Sioux City Journal reported.
At a Monday town hall in rural Rock Rapids, Iowa, King called on the crowd to pray for McCarthy to “separate his ego from this issue and look at it objectively,” according to the newspaper.
And if they could direct some of those prayers as messages straight to McCarthy’s office, that wouldn’t be the worst thing either, he added.
“Kevin McCarthy has been getting a lot of phone calls, and the more phone calls he gets and the more persistent that it is, the more he is gonna realize that it was a bad decision he made, based upon one comment misquoted in the New York Times, reported as fact,” King said, according to the Journal.
In an email to The Washington Post, McCarthy’s office said the House minority leader “does not have any plans to change his mind regarding Rep. King not receiving committee assignments.”
At the Iowa town hall, King seemed to blame the backlash to his Times interview on “language police … searching the Internet for something to be offended by.” Much as he did in the Jan. 10 New York Times interview that triggered his rebuke, he insisted he was not racist:
He pointed to his Twitter timeline showing him greeting Iowans of all races and religions in his Washington office. (The same office once displayed a Confederate flag on his desk.)At the same time, he said, he supports immigrants who enter the country legally and fully assimilate because what matters more than race is “the culture of America” based on values brought to the United States by whites from Europe.“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
After the Times published its interview, King released a statement saying he was not “a white nationalist or a white supremacist.”
“I want to make one thing abundantly clear; I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define,” he stated then. “Further, I condemn anyone that supports this evil and bigoted ideology which saw in its ultimate expression the systematic murder of 6 million innocent Jewish lives.”
Instead, King added, he was “simply a Nationalist.” However, he didn’t at the time dispute what the Times had published or accuse the newspaper of misquoting him.
On Monday, King suggested the reporter had misquoted him “at best."
“The sentence construction doesn’t support the New York Times,” he said, according to the Journal.
It’s unclear exactly where King is suggesting he was misquoted or how any sentence construction in the profile does not "support” the newspaper. A spokesman for King did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
King is now serving his ninth term in Congress. He narrowly won reelection in November and Iowa voters have repeatedly returned him to office despite a long history of racist comments.
As The Post’s Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reported last month, that history has included but is not limited to the following:
— The time King claimed “our civilization” can’t be restored with “somebody else’s babies”;
— The time King retweeted a message by a Nazi sympathizer and defended it for weeks;
— The time King met with a far-right group with Nazi ties on a trip sponsored by a Holocaust memorial group;
— The time King said blacks and Latinos will be “fighting each other” before the United States becomes a majority-minority nation; and
— The time King said black people could afford abortions if they stopped buying iPhones.