(Reuters) - Republican U.S. Representative Steve King wondered aloud on Wednesday whether the human race would still exist without rape and incest, setting off calls by Republicans and Democrats alike for him to step down, just months after he was condemned for remarks widely regarded as racist.
King made his remarks as he explained his anti-abortion position at a breakfast event in his home state of Iowa, the Des Moines Register reported.
“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” King said in remarks to 50 members of the Westside Conservative Club during the event in Urbandale. The newspaper posted a video of the event on its website.
“Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that happened throughout all these different nations, I know that I can’t say that I was not a part of a product of that,” he added.
Fellow Republican Representative Liz Cheney, a self-described conservative from Wyoming, said on Twitter, “Today’s comments by @RepSteveKingIA are appalling and bizarre. As I’ve said before, it’s time for him to go. The people of Iowa’s 4th congressional district deserve better.”
King last November was re-elected to his ninth term in Congress with just over 50 percent of the vote after years of double-digit victories, after being roundly criticized for support of candidates with white supremacist affiliations. Democrat J.D. Scholten who lost to King last year is again running to unseat King in 2020.
King sparked a new firestorm of controversy in January when he asked in an interview with the New York Times why “white supremacy” was considered offensive. In response, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution disapproving his statements and stripped King of his committee assignments.
King’s remarks on Wednesday came in a year that a series of Republican-controlled state legislatures passed new restrictions on abortion intended to provoke a U.S. Supreme Court review of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that upheld a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.
The most restrictive, passed in Alabama, would completely ban abortion with no exception for rape or incest.
King is opposed to exceptions for rape and incest in laws restricting abortion and has tried unsuccessfully to get legislation reflecting his position passed in the House.
“It’s not the baby’s fault for the sin of the father, or of the mother,” he said.
A spokesman for King was not immediately available for comment.
Several Democratic presidential hopefuls, including U.S. Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, also urged King to resign over the controversial comments.
“There’s no place for Steve King’s racism, bigotry, and hatred in Congress,” tweeted Democratic former U.S. congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas, who is also running for president.
Iowa state Senator Randy Feenstra, who is running against King in the Republican primary election in 2020, called King’s comments and behavior “bizarre” on Twitter.
Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler