WASHINGTON — GOP Rep. Steve King is under fire after he told constituents at a town hall that victims of Hurricane Katrina pleaded for help from the government in contrast to residents of his home state of Iowa who "take care of each other."
"Here's what FEMA tells me: We go to a place like New Orleans and everybody's looking around saying, 'Who's gonna help me, who's gonna help me?' When FEMA responds to problems in Iowa, they're just always gratified when they come and see how Iowans take care of each other," the Iowa lawmaker told a town hall meeting in Charter Oak, Iowa, on Thursday.
King said he visited New Orleans, which is a majority black city, multiple times after the deadly 2005 storm. More than 1,800 people, mostly black, died from the disaster; however, government officials have noted that the true death toll could be much higher.
Recent spring flooding in the Midwest has devastated towns and rural communities across the region and has been blamed for three deaths.
Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, D-La., whose district includes New Orleans, said in a tweet on Thursday that the remarks are more evidence that King is a "white supremacist."
"My heart goes out to all Iowans. Though it unsettles me that @SteveKingIA would dare compare them to the countless victims of Katrina, many of whom lost their lives. When people show you who they are, believe them. Steve King is a white supremacist and I won't stand for it," Richmond said.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, also blasted King in a tweet on Thursday, calling his comments "disgusting and disheartening."
"These comments are disgusting and disheartening. When communities are affected by disasters, we come together to help each other, not tear each other down," he said.
In a tweeted statement, FEMA spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow called King's comments "inaccurate" and that the agency responds fairly to each disaster.
"@SteveKingIA’s recent comments about @FEMA comparing recovery efforts are inaccurate. All disasters are unique and our mission remains true that we are here to help all people before, during, and after disasters," Litzow said on Twitter Friday.
King was one of 11 members of Congress to vote against a bill to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 because he said the $51.8 billion aid package was too expensive. He called it a "good” and "principled" vote, according to HuffPost.
King's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
King has been under fire from his party for remarks about race. In January, GOP voted unanimously to remove King from all committees amid the uproar over his comments about white nationalism. The move came after he questioned why "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization" was offensive in an interview with The New York Times.
"How did that language become offensive?" he asked. "Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at the time that King's language is "reckless, wrong, and has no place in our society."
King later backtracked in a statement at the time, saying, "I reject white nationalism. I reject white supremacy. It's not part of any of my ideology. I reject anyone who carries that ideology."`