Prominent members of both the Democratic and Republican parties are calling for the resignation of Iowa Rep. Steve King in light of controversial comments this week that suggested the world’s population would be slim were it not for rape and incest.
King, a far-right politician with a history of inflammatory rhetoric, made the comments on Wednesday, according to the Des Moines Register. He was reportedly speaking in defense of his stance that anti-abortion legislation should not make exceptions for pregnant victims of rape and incest.
“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?” King, 70, said at an event in Iowa, the Register reports.
“Considering all the ways and all the rapes and pillages taken place and whatever happened to culture after society? I know I can’t certify that I’m not a part of a product of that,” he said, reportedly adding, “It’s not the baby’s fault for the sin of the father or of the mother.”
Condemnation against the comments came swiftly, from everyone from Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the House Republican Conference chair.
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.— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) August 14, 2019
Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, called on King to resign 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,” she wrote.
Republican Iowa Sen. Randy Feenstra, who is running against King in 2020, branded the statements “bizarre.”
“I am 100% pro-life but Steve King’s bizarre comments and behavior diminish our message & damage our cause. Trump needs defenders in Congress, not distractions. I will ensure we win this seat & I’ll be an effective conservative leader in Congress. #IA04,” Feenstra wrote.
I am 100% pro-life but Steve King's bizarre comments and behavior diminish our message & damage our cause. Trump needs defenders in Congress, not distractions. I will ensure we win this seat & I'll be an effective conservative leader in Congress. #IA04 https://t.co/x8M58B0gh0— Randy Feenstra (@RandyFeenstra) August 14, 2019
Iowa Republican spokesman Aaron Britt distanced the party from King, telling CBS News in a statement: “These comments are outrageous and are not reflective of the views of the Iowa Republican Party.”
Democratic leaders weighed in, too, with many taking the opportunity to drum up support for J.D. Scholten, a Democrat who will oppose King in 2020.
“Steve King must resign. His latest comment is a disgusting attack on victims of sexual assault. The people of #IA04 deserve better. We must work together to elect @JDScholten in 2020,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president, wrote on Twitter.
Steve King must resign. His latest comment is a disgusting attack on victims of sexual assault. The people of #IA04 deserve better. We must work together to elect @JDScholten in 2020. https://t.co/y5QDB4ToHc— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) August 14, 2019
Vermont Sen. Sanders took a harsher tone, writing, “Steve King is a racist, a misogynist and a disgrace to the country. He should not be a member of the United States Congress.”
Scholten, meanwhile, wrote, “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.”
Former Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, meanwhile, told CNN that while he finds King, a fellow Republican, “very gregarious and friendly” on a personal level, his comments were out of line.
“These remarks are just so outlandish, out of bounds, out of control,” he said. “I mean, you wonder if he’s out of his mind.”
King has come under fire in the past for the extreme nature of his beliefs, including earlier this year when he questioned how white supremacy was offensive.
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The remarks saw him removed from the Judiciary and Agriculture Committees by House Republican leaders in January, according to the New York Times.
“I have a great deal of problems with [his rape comments],” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox News. “This isn’t the first time I’ve had concerns of what Steve King has said … As a United Conference, we actually removed Steve King from his committees inside Congress and I think this just continues to show why that action was taken.”
King, a former businessman, was elected to Congress in 2002.
A representative for King did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.