While speaking to a conservative group in Iowa, U.S. Rep. Steve King wondered if there would be "any population of the world" remaining if not for people born as a result of rape or incest, reports the Des Moines Register. It's not the first time comments by the Republican congressman have sparked an uproar, and it drew immediate criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
"What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest?" asked King at the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Iowa on Wednesday, according to the Register. "Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?"
He went on to say that considering "all the wars and all the rapes and pillages" that took place in the history of the world's nations, he couldn't rule out that he, too, "was not a part of a product of that."
King was defending his decision not to allow exceptions for rape and incest in the anti-abortion legislation he attempted to pass in Congress, the Register reports. He added that babies born through these circumstances are still a person, despite the way in which they were conceived.
"I've got 174 people [in the House of Representatives] who say they don't want exceptions for rape and incest because they understand it is not the baby's fault, to abort the baby, because of the sin of the father, and maybe sometimes the sin of the mother too," King added.*
The comments quickly came under fire from other lawmakers — including Republican leaders, who defending white supremacy and white nationalism.in January over comments he made
Minority Whip Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, said of King's latest statements, "These comments are wrong, and offensive, and underscore why we removed him from his committees."
Iowa GOP spokesman Aaron Britt issued a statement saying, "These comments are outrageous and are not reflective of the views of the Iowa Republican Party."
Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming also weighed in on Twitter. "Today's comments by @RepSteveKingIA are appalling and bizarre," she wrote. "As I've said before, it's time for him to go. The people of Iowa's 4th congressional district deserve better."
Many Democrats called for King to step down. "Steve King must resign," wrote Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a tweet Wednesday. "His latest comment is a disgusting attack on victims of sexual assault." She also encouraged Iowa voters to support King's Democratic opponent in the 2020 race for his seat in Congress, J.D. Scholten. (King is also facing a .)
Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted, "Rape apologists have no place in Congress. Iowans deserve better than Steve King." She also encouraged donations to Scholten.
"Steve King is a racist, a misogynist and a disgrace to the country," tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders. "He should not be a member of the United States Congress."
At a town hall meeting in Hardin County, Iowa, later in the day, King lashed out at members of his own party for punishing him. He said Leader Kevin McCarthy made a "big mistake" in taking away his committee assignments, and vowed, "I will turn the pressure up on this. ... Something is going to happen. I may win I may lose. But I am not going to back off."
-CBS News' Alan He and The Associated Press contributed reporting.
* Editor's note: An earlier version of this story, relying on information from The Des Moines Register, inaccurately quoted King as saying, "It's not the baby's fault for the sin of the father, or of the mother." King actually said, "I've got 174 people who say they don't want exceptions for rape and incest because they understand it is not the baby's fault, to abort the baby, because of the sin of the father, and maybe sometimes the sin of the mother too."