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The three highest-ranking Republican leaders in the House took Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to task after he questioned Wednesday whether humanity would exist if not for the rapes and incest that happened throughout history.
"What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest?" he said at a speech in Urbandale, Iowa. "Would there be any population of the world left if we did that? Considering all the wars and all the rape and pillage that has taken place? And whatever happened to culture after society, I know that I can't certify that that I am not a part of the product of that.”
He also noted that "it's not the baby's fault" if a rape or incest occurred.
King was speaking in defense of an anti-abortion bill he sought to pass in Congress that would not allow for exceptions for pregnancies that were the result of rape or incest. The congressman's remarks to the Westside Conservative Club near Des Moines were first reported by The Des Moines Register.
His comments Wednesday drew backlash from prominent lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including from top House Republicans. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, La., said the comments were "wrong" and "offensive." House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyo., the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress, called King's remarks "appalling" and renewed calls for him to step down.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Fox News that he had "a great deal of problems" with King's remarks and noted that "this isn’t the first time I’ve had concerns of what Steve King has said."
House Republican leaders stripped King of his committee assignments in January after he defended white nationalism and white supremacy in an interview with the New York Times. King was quoted as saying "white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?"
In a statement on Wednesday, Iowa GOP Spokesman Aaron Britt called King's rape comments "outrageous" and "not reflective of the views of the Iowa Republican Party."
A slew of prominent Democrats, including many of the 2020 presidential candidates, also sharply criticized King on Wednesday. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., called on the Iowa congressman to resign, while other Democratic candidates, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, encouraged voters to donate to King's Democratic challenger, J.D. Scholten. Scholten accused King of "excusing violence" and said that "his comments are disrespectful to survivors and don’t reflect Iowan values.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg told MSNBC that King's remarks were "extremely disturbing."
"I would think anybody who had said something that extreme would resign," he said. "But then again, I doubt that he'll actually do it. So we're just going to have to beat him the old-fashioned way."
King did not respond to repeated questions from NBC News at a town hall event later on Wednesday.