WASHINGTON (JTA) — Leading Republicans slammed their U.S. House of Representatives colleague, Steve King, for saying he did not understand why the term “white supremacist” was offensive.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said in a New York Times profile on Thursday. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
King later said he rejects “those labels and the evil ideology they define,” but the damage was done. The entirety of the GOP House leadership condemned the remarks, with Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the minority leader calling them “reckless.”
Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and for a short time the frontrunner in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination stakes, said on Twitter Friday that the party should primary King. “Republican leaders must actively support a worthy primary opponent to defeat King, because he won’t have the decency to resign,” he said.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the party’s sole African American in the Senate, said King was a phenomenon because the party did not do enough to marginalize his like. “Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism — it is because of our silence when things like this are said,” Scott wrote in a Washington Post Op-Ed.
Republican Jews also excoriated King. “Once again we are appalled and disgusted by his views and comments,” Republican Jewish Coalition director Matthew Brooks told Jewish Insider. ‘He doesn’t represent the values of the RJC or the Republican Party.’