WASHINGTON — Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, faced fresh, bipartisan condemnation Wednesday over his choice of words.
King’s latest comments came during a gathering in Urbandale, Iowa, according to the Des Moines Register.
“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” King said, based on video captured by the Des Moines Register. “Considering all the wars and all the rape and pillage that’s taken place and whatever happened in culture after society, I know I can’t certify that I'm not a part of a product of that.”
The comments came in the context of King defending his support for restricting abortion rights with no exceptions for rape or incest.
King has been an outspoken advocate for legislation to ban abortions once the unborn child has a detectable heartbeat — which can happen weeks into a pregnancy and before a woman even realizes she is pregnant.
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He has characterized his proposal as effectively banning 90 percent or more of abortions in the country.
Democrat J.D. Scholten, who is seeking a rematch with King in 2020, issued a statement criticizing the congressman for putting a “selfish, hateful ideology” above the needs of Iowans.
“Excusing violence — in any way — is entirely unacceptable,” Scholten said. “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.”
King, who was first elected to Congress in 2002, has stirred controversy regularly during his political career. In particular, his hard-line rhetoric on illegal immigration and Western civilization have put him in the spotlight time and again.
Various controversies cost him some corporate donations last election cycle and even drew a sharp denunciation from the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee — the party organization generally tasked with getting incumbents such as King re-elected.
Northwest Iowa’s 4th District is heavily Republican and went for Trump by a wide margin in 2016. Despite that, King only narrowly held onto the seat in 2018, defeating Scholten by a few percentage points.
Earlier this year, King landed in hot water over statements about white supremacy he made to the New York Times. King said the newspaper badly twisted the meaning of his words but the House voted to formally rebuke him and he was stripped of committee assignments.
King has attracted multiple Republican primary opponents this cycle who reported more campaign cash on hand than the incumbent at the end of the last reporting cycle.
One of those GOP primary challengers, Iowa State Sen. Randy Feenstra, issued his own statement Wednesday casting King’s latest comments as undermining efforts to restrict abortion rights.
“I am 100% pro-life but Congressman King’s bizarre comments and behavior diminish our message and damage our cause,” Feenstra said. “We can’t afford to hand the 4th District to Nancy Pelosi and her allies in Congress. President Trump needs defenders in Congress, not distractions.”
King’s campaign did not immediately respond to a World-Herald request for comment.
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Correction: An earlier version of this story included an inaccurate quotation by King from the Des Moines Register.