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House GOP leaders condemn Steve King for 'appalling' rape comments

POLITICO logo POLITICO 3 days ago By Sarah Ferris
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Embattled Rep. Steve King on Wednesday said the human population might not exist if not for rape and incest, drawing scorn — and renewed calls to resign — from scores of Democrats and some in his own party.

The Iowa Republican, who was speaking at an event in Urbandale, Iowa, was intending to make the case for a GOP policy that bans nearly all abortions, including in cases when the woman is a victim of rape or incest.

"What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?" King said, according to the Des Moines Register, which first reported the comments.

"Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that happened throughout all these different nations, I know that I can't say that I was not a part of a product of that,” King continued.

Democrats in Congress and on the 2020 campaign trail reacted with fury, saying that King's comments amounted to excusing violence against women and disregarding the victims of rape and incest.

King's remarks drew a backlash from House GOP leaders — who already agreed to strip him of his committee posts after a string of racist remarks earlier this year — though their response took several hours.

“These comments are wrong, and offensive, and underscore why we removed him from his committees," House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said in a statement to POLITICO Wednesday afternoon.

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney redoubled her calls for King to step aside, calling his comments "appalling and bizarre."

"As I’ve said before, it’s time for him to go. The people of Iowa’s 4th congressional district deserve better," Cheney tweeted.

One of King’s primary challengers was quick to condemn the remarks as “bizarre comments and behavior."

“I am 100% pro-life but Steve King's bizarre comments and behavior diminish our message & damage our cause. Trump needs defenders in Congress, not distractions,” Iowa state Sen. Randy Feenstra tweeted.

King’s comments to the Westside Conservative Club add to a long legacy of contentious and insensitive remarks, some of which have drawn fire from leaders of his own party. The Iowa Republican was stripped of his committee assignments this year after questioning when "white supremacy" became an offensive term in a New York Times interview.

Steve King wearing a suit and tie: 190814_steve_king_gty_773.jpg © Joshua Lott/Getty Images 190814_steve_king_gty_773.jpg

J.D. Scholten, a 2020 Democratic candidate who lost to King by roughly 3 percentage points in 2018, swiftly condemned the lawmaker’s “selfish, hateful ideology.”

“Excusing violence — in any way — is entirely unacceptable,” Scholten said in a statement. “His comments are disrespectful to survivors and don’t reflect Iowan values.”

Several Democratic presidential candidates, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigeig, called on King to resign.

Several others, including former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, called for a flood of donations to Scholten, tweeting out the link to a fundraising page.

Democratic lawmakers, too, reacted fiercely to King’s latest controversy.

“This is incredibly cruel & disrespectful to survivors. Steve King & his values, his rhetoric, & his disdain for decency is a far cry from the Iowa I know,” freshman Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Iowa tweeted. “He doesn’t represent who we are & he continues to be an embarrassment to our state & federal delegation.”

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