WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats and some Republicans on Monday criticized a veteran GOP congressman for saying America can't restore "our civilization with somebody else's babies" and warning of a liberal effort to destroy Western civilization through immigration.
On Twitter Sunday, Rep. Steve King of Iowa paid tribute to a Dutch politician who opposes immigration and has spoken against Islam. It came as the Dutch prepared for an election for prime minister.
King, who has served in the House since 2003, said Geert Wilders "understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies."
In an interview Monday on CNN, King said he stood by his remarks, "I meant exactly what I said," and noted that he delivers the same message to countries in Europe.
"We need to get our birth rates up or Europe will be entirely transformed within a half a century or a little more," King said.
King is known for making racially charged commentary. Last year, at the Republican National Convention, King questioned contributions to civilization by nonwhites. In 2013, he described children in the country illegally as having "calves the size of cantaloupes because they've been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."
King said his comments aren't focused on race, but critics disagreed.
A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called on GOP leadership to condemn King's statements.
"Republican congressman Steve King's vile racism has no place in decent society, much less in the U.S. Congress," said spokesman Drew Hammill.
Pressed on the issue Monday night, House Speaker Paul Ryan told Fox News that he disagreed with the statement.
"We're a melting pot. My family's here because the potatoes stopped growing in Ireland," he said. "The American idea is this beautiful idea which is there for everyone, which is that the condition of your birth doesn't determine your outcome in life."
Ryan said he hasn't spoken with King. "I'd like to think he misspoke and it wasn't really meant the way it sounds and hopefully he's clarified that," Ryan said.
In defending his remarks, King told CNN that he wants to see Americans "bonded together."
"If you go down the road a few generations or maybe centuries with the intermarriage, I'd like to see an America that (is) so homogenous that we look a lot the same from that perspective. I think there's far too much focus on race, especially in the last eight years. I want to see that put behind us," King said.
Iowa Republicans, including Gov. Terry Branstad; Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party; and Rep. David Young, said they disagreed with King.
Most members of the House were still back in their home districts Monday, muting reaction from King's colleagues. But two Florida Republicans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.
"Get a clue, @SteveKingIA. Diversity is our strength. All looking alike is such a waste. A travesty. I wanna be me. All others are taken," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who was born to Cuban exiles who fled Fidel Castro's regime in the 1960s, asked King via Twitter: "What exactly do you mean? Do I qualify as "somebody else's baby?" #concernedGOPcolleague"
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a civil rights leader in the 1960s, said the United States is a melting pot of cultures, traditions, appearance and languages.
"Rep. King's statement is bigoted and racist. It suggests there is one cultural tradition and one appearance that all of humanity should conform to," Lewis said. "These ideas have given rise to some of the worst atrocities in human history, and they must be condemned."