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By Kasie Hunt, Alex Moe and Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, did not deny making inflammatory comments to the New York Times about white nationalism and white supremacy — though he insisted in an interview that he rejects both of those mindsets.

“I reject white nationalism. I reject white supremacy. It’s not part of any of my ideology. I reject anyone who carries that ideology,” the Iowa Republican told NBC News in his Capitol Hill office.

King said that he was really talking about “the continuation of applying labels onto people as freely as they are.”

King faced widespread criticism following a recent interview with The New York Times in which he said: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?…Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

Asked why he made that comment, King told NBC Thursday, “That was in the context of a long interview for the New York Times.”

“I will accept this idea that I’ve supported Western civilization for a long time and that’s the foundation of the American civilization but ‘American’ means people of all races, all ethnicities, all national origins and we’re pretty proud of that,” King said.

After the story was published by the Times Thursday, the paper said that King had issued a statement in which he described himself as a “nationalist” and supporter of “western civilization’s values,” but said of “white nationalist” and “white supremacy” terminology: “I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I reject those labels and the evil ideology they define.”

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, blasted King’s comments on Twitter, calling them “abhorrent and racist.”

GOP Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., also condemned the remarks. “I think it’s offensive to try to legitimize those terms,” he said Thursday.

And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called the remarks “reckless” and “wrong”: “Everything about white supremacy and white nationalism goes against who we are as a nation,” he said. “Steve’s language is reckless, wrong, and has no place in our society. The Declaration of Independence states that ‘all men are created equal.’ That is a fact. It is self-evident.”



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Hakeem Jeffries defends calling Trump ‘Grand Wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’

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By Allan Smith

New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is standing by remarks he made Monday in which he called President Donald Trump “the Grand Wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

In an interview Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day,” the House Democratic Caucus chairman said he had no regrets about the comment, which he made at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in New York City.

“We’ve got to have an opportunity for at least one day a year to have a candid if sometimes uncomfortable conversation about race,” Jeffries told CNN. “It seems to me that we can’t have that conversation on Valentine’s Day, we can’t have that conversation on Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s perhaps appropriate for us to be able to have that difficult discussion on MLK Day, when we’re celebrating the life and legacy of a champion for racial and social justice.”

Monday was not the first time Jeffries labeled Trump as such. But he told CNN that he “absolutely” does not think Trump is a Ku Klux Klan member. “Grand Wizard” is the title that was given to leaders of the white supremacist group.

“I did not use the words racist in any of my comments,” Jeffries said. “In fact, Wolf Blitzer in the past has asked me whether I believe the president is a racist, and I’ve consistently said no. I did use a colorful phrase, but of course I don’t believe that the president is a card-carrying member of the KKK. But it did capture a troubling pattern of racially insensitive and outrageous, at times, behavior that spans not months, not years, but decades.”

As examples, Jeffries cited a Justice Department lawsuit against the Trumps in the 1970s for alleged housing discrimination, the president’s remarks about the so-called Central Park Five, Trump’s promotion of the false conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and the president’s handling of the fatal violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.

Jeffries wasn’t the only Democratic leader to attack Trump’s racial record over the Monday holiday.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in South Carolina: “It gives me no pleasure to tell you that we now have a president of the United States who is a racist.”

In response, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel tweeted that Sanders’ remark was “disgusting and wrong.”

@realDonaldTrump has brought African American and Hispanic unemployment to record lows, passed historic criminal justice reform. Even worse that Bernie is using MLK Day to make an incendiary comment like that,” McDaniel wrote.



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