Democrats and some Republicans on Monday criticized a veteran GOP congressman for saying America can't restore "our civilization with somebody else's babies" and warning of a liberal effort to destroy Western civilization through immigration.
On Twitter Sunday, Rep. Steve King of Iowa paid tribute to a Dutch politician who opposes immigration and has spoken against Islam. It came as the Dutch prepared for an election for prime minister.
King, who has served in the House since 2003, said Geert Wilders "understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies."
In an interview Monday on CNN, King said he stood by his remarks. King said, "I meant exactly what I said," and noted that he delivers the same message to countries in Europe.
"We need to get our birth rates up or Europe will be entirely transformed within a half a century or a little more," King said.
King is known for making racially charged commentary. Last year, at the Republican National Convention, King questioned contributions to civilization by nonwhites. In 2013, he described children in the country illegally as having "calves the size of cantaloupes because they've been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."
King said his comments aren't focus on race, but critics disagreed.
A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called on GOP leadership to condemn King's statements.
"Republican congressman Steve King's vile racism has no place in decent society, much less in the U.S. Congress," said spokesman Drew Hammill. "But once again, disgusting hatred has been met with deafening silence from Speaker (Paul) Ryan."
AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, subsequently responded that Ryan took issue with King's comments.
"The speaker clearly disagrees and believes America's long history of inclusiveness is one of its great strengths," Strong said.
When asked whether he is promoting a kind of white nationalism, King said the debate isn't about advancing a particular race but rather advancing American culture and Western civilization.
"This is an effort on the left, I think, to break down the American civilization, the American culture and turn it into something entirely different. I'm a champion for Western civilization," he said.
In defending his remarks, King told CNN said there's been too much focus on race and wants to see Americans "bonded together."
"If you go down the road a few generations or maybe centuries with the intermarriage, I'd like to see an America that (is) so homogenous that we look a lot the same from that perspective. I think there's far too much focus on race, especially in the last eight years. I want to see that put behind us," King said.
Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, was one of the first GOP leaders to take issue with King's comments. He was joined Monday by Republican Rep. David Young of Iowa.
"First of all, I do not agree with congressman King's statement," Kaufmann said in a press release. "We are a nation of immigrants, and diversity is the strength of any nation and any community."
Most members of the House were still back in their home districts Monday, muting reaction from King's colleagues. But a couple of Florida Republicans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.
"Get a clue, @SteveKingIA. Diversity is our strength. All looking alike is such a waste. A travesty. I wanna be me. All others are taken," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who was born to Cuban exiles who fled Fidel Castro's regime in the 1960s, asked King via Twitter: "What exactly do you mean? Do I qualify as "somebody else's baby?" #concernedGOPcolleague"
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a civil rights leader in the 1960s, said the United States is a melting pot of cultures, traditions, appearance and languages.
"Rep. King's statement is bigoted and racist. It suggests there is one cultural tradition and one appearance that all of humanity should conform to," Lewis said. "These ideas have given rise to some of the worst atrocities in human history, and they must be condemned."
Social media users on both sides of the aisle took to Twitter to respond to King's latest controversial comments.