House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Sunday said “action will be taken” against Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) over his recent comments to The New York Times questioning why terms such as “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” are considered offensive.
McCarthy said on CBS’ “Face The Nation” that he will meet with King on Monday to discuss the veteran lawmaker’s future in the Republican Party.
″That language has no place in America,” McCarthy said on the program. “That is not the America that I know. And it’s most definitely not the party of Lincoln.”
He continued, “Action will be taken. I’m having a serious conversation with Congressman Steve King on his future and role in this Republican Party.”
Asked to elaborate on what repercussions King may face, McCarthy simply responded that “a number of things” would occur.
Following his on-camera interview, McCarthy told host Margaret Brennan that he is reviewing whether King will keep his congressional committee assignments, CBS reported.
Representatives for both McCarthy and King did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.
In his interview with the Times, King said he’s OK with immigrants of various races legally entering the U.S. ― so long as American culture stays white and European.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King, 69, told the newspaper. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
Following swift backlash over his remarks, King issued a statement calling himself a “nationalist” who supports “western civilization’s values.” He said he rejected the “labels” of white nationalism and white supremacy, as well as “the evil ideology they define.”
Despite his long history of making Islamophobic comments, endorsing white supremacists and retweeting neo-Nazis, King previously faced little pushback from his fellow Republican lawmakers. And while his bigoted rhetoric was called out by several media outlets, including HuffPost, in the run-up to the midterm election in November, King was re-elected to the House for a ninth term.
McCarthy’s vow to “take action” comes a day after the Congressional Black Caucus released a statement calling on House Republicans to remove King from his committee assignments. Those that he serves on include the agriculture and judiciary committees.
“If Republicans really believe these racist statements have no place in our government, then their party must offer more than shallow temporary statements of condemnation,” Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the CBC chair, said in the statement.
She continued: “Republicans should make clear Mr. King is no longer welcomed in their party or Congress. Anything less than these substantive actions is another tacit acceptance of racism from the Republican Party.”
McCarthy on Sunday became the first Republican leader to suggest King will face any repercussions for his comments to the Times.
“Let me be clear ― Rep. King’s language is reckless, wrong, and has no place in society,” he tweeted after his CBS interview.
King’s comments to the Times spurred rebukes from several GOP lawmakers, including Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.
“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 The Washington Post.
Scott later shied away from calling King a racist on Fox News and said King should not resign.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who picked King to co-chair his 2016 presidential campaign, denounced the lawmaker’s comments as “stupid” during an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
“It was stupid,” Cruz said. “It was hurtful. It was wrong. And he needs to stop. I think all of us ought to be united regardless of party in saying white supremacist, white nationalism is hatred, it is bigotry, it is evil, it is wrong.”
Asked if he would rule out supporting King in the future, Cruz deflected.
“What I’m going to do is urge everyone to stand for principles that matter,” he said. “When it comes to speaking out against bigotry ― whether it is the Klan or Nazis or anything else ― I have a lifetime of standing up to that bigotry and I’ll continue it.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) dodged questions during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on whether congressional Republicans would take action against King.
“I would imagine we’re going to keep talking about this. This just popped on Friday,” Scalise said, referring to King’s comments, which were actually published Thursday in the Times. “We were very quick to reject those comments.”
In his attempts to pivot the conversation away from King, Scalise repeatedly attacked Democrats for failing to call out offensive remarks made by members of their party. Scalise did not specify which comments he was accusing Democrats of ignoring.
“We’ve got to raise the bar on civility,” Scalise said. “We need to call it out on the Republican side and the Democrat side. I’ve been willing to call it out on both.”
Scalise, a loyal supporter of President Donald Trump, has admitted to speaking at a gathering hosted by white supremacists in 2002. He claimed he didn’t know at the time about the group’s affiliation with neo-Nazi activists.
This story has been updated to include comments from Bass.