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Steve King questions if there would be any population left if not for rape and incest

Updated 10:11 AM ET, Thu August 15, 2019

Washington (CNN) - GOP Rep. Steve King of Iowa questioned on Wednesday whether there would be any population left on Earth if not for rape and incest, a remark that has drawn condemnation from both Democrats and Republicans.

"What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?" he said in Urbandale, Iowa, according to video posted online by the Des Moines Register, which was first to report on the remarks Wednesday.

"Considering all the wars and all the rape and pillage that has taken place ... I know I can't certify that I was not a part of a product of that," King said. "I'd like to think that every one of the lives of us are as precious as any other life," he added.

The remarks came as King was defending not allowing exceptions for abortion in cases of rape or incest.

The Iowa Republican is a controversial and polarizing figure on Capitol Hill who has a track record of making racist comments that have generated backlash across the political spectrum.

In January, House Republicans stripped King of committee assignments, an action that took place after an interview in which he appeared to lament that the term "white supremacist" is considered offensive.

CNN has reached out to King's office for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

The remarks quickly generated condemnation from lawmakers in both parties.

Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, said in a tweet that the remarks were "appalling and bizarre" and called on him to resign.

"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," Cheney tweeted.

JD Scholten, who announced earlier this month that he will once again try to unseat King by running against him in 2020, said the Iowa Republican is pushing a "selfish agenda," and accused him of excusing violence.

"Our congressman continues to push his selfish agenda above the needs of #IA04 -- this time he excuses violence. This isn't what we stand for," the Democratic challenger wrote, including a link to a fundraising page with the message.

Scholten said on CNN's "New Day" Thursday that King's words "are just abhorrent and they don't reflect the values of this district."

"It's just another of a long line of his controversial statements that ultimately hurt this district, and it's getting really tiresome," Scholten said, adding, "As Iowans, we don't believe in this extremism that King represents and it's so divisive."

King also faces a GOP primary before he gets to the general election.

One of primary challengers, Iowa state Sen. Randy Feenstra, called the comments "bizarre" in a statement on Wednesday.

"I am 100% pro-life but Congressman King's bizarre comments and behavior diminish our message and damage our cause," he said, adding, "We can't afford to hand the 4th District to Nancy Pelosi and her allies in Congress. President Trump needs defenders in Congress, not distractions."

Democratic presidential candidates were quick to denounce the congressman too, with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand calling for his resignation.

"You are a disgrace. Resign," Gillibrand tweeted at King on Wednesday.

"My friend @JDScholten is standing up and fighting back against Steve King, and he needs all of our help," Beto O'Rourke tweeted, "because no matter where you live, you know there's no place for Steve King's racism, bigotry, and hatred in Congress.

"Iowans have long deserved better than Steve King and his hateful, insulting words. He should resign," tweeted Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.

In an exchange with CNN on Tuesday prior to the latest controversial remarks, King argued that he believes he will be re-assigned to congressional committees before 2020.

When asked if he hopes to be re-assigned to committees if he is reelected in 2020, King responded, "I'm not going to wait that long."

Referring to the House GOP leader, King said, "Kevin McCarthy made a huge mistake, it is an obscene injustice, and it's an affront to Iowans and everybody in this country."

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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