The sole black Republican senator lambasted Republican Rep. Steve King, who has a history of making anti-immigration and racist remarks, for his recent sympathetic comments toward white supremacists.
King, of Iowa, has come under fire from lawmakers on both sides for remarks he made to The New York Times.
Government and public administration
Government organizations - US
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Racism and racial discrimination
Steve King (Politician)
US House of Representatives
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White supremacy and neo-Nazism
"White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" the Iowa Republican said in a Times story published Thursday. "Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?"
In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina slammed King's comments, saying they exacerbated the struggle to maintain "civility and fairness."
"I will admit I am unsure who is offended by the term 'Western civilization' on its own, but anyone who needs 'white nationalist' or 'white supremacist' defined, described and defended does lack some pretty common knowledge," Scott writes.
He referenced recent crimes allegedly motivated by racism, including the killing of two African-Americans at a Kentucky grocery store in October and protests over Confederate statues that turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
"When people with opinions similar to King's open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole," Scott added. "They want to be treated with fairness for some perceived slights but refuse to return the favor to those on the other side. 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 called King "an extremist" whose views do not align with those of the Republican Party and can no longer be ignored.
"King's comments are not conservative views but separate views that should be ridiculed at every turn possible," Scott wrote.
He also likened the Iowa Republican to Nation of Islam founder Minister Louis Farrakhan, who has publicly made anti-Semitic comments, and other radicals who he said weaken the country's social fabric.
"That is why silence is no longer acceptable. It is tempting to write King — or other extremists on race issues, such as black-nationalist Louis Farrakhan — as lonely voices in the wilderness, but they are far more dangerous than that," Scott added. "They continue to rip at the fabric of our nation, a country built on hope, strength and diversity. It is the opposite of civility and fairness and will lead only to more pain and suffering."
Scott has previously weighed in on King's comments decrying diversity.
In March 2017, King tweeted, "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies," later telling CNN's Chris Cuomo that he "meant exactly what I said."
Scott responded in a tweet, saying, "E pluribus unum. And as Christians, we believe the many all come from Adam and Eve."
When King tweeted that "diversity is not our strength" later that year, Scott told NBC's Chuck Todd that there was little he could "do about people who speak ignorantly." He added King had made "just a ridiculous statement."