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URBANDALE — Rep. Steve King has ignited yet another controversy by asking whether there “would be any population of the world left” if people who were born as the result of rape and incest were discounted.

King, a nine-term Republican congressman from western Iowa, made the comments Wednesday while speaking to a conservative group in a Des Moines suburb.

“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? Considering all the wars and all the rape and pillage that’s taken place and whatever happened in culture after society? I know I can’t certify that we’re not part of a product of that,” King said. “And I’d like to think every one of the lives of us are as precious as any other life.”

The comment immediately drew attention on social media and from the national media. King’s opponents, both in the Democratic Party and his Republican primary challengers, weighed in.

“I am 100% pro-life but Congressman King’s bizarre comments and behavior diminish our message and damage our cause,” Randy Feenstra, a Republican state lawmaker and one of King’s primary challengers, said in a statement. “We can’t afford to hand the 4th District to Nancy Pelosi and her allies in Congress. President (Donald) Trump needs defenders in Congress, not distractions. In the (Iowa) Senate, I’ve been an effective conservative who has fought for our values and delivered conservative results. I’ll do the same in Congress.”

Jeremy Taylor, a Republican county supervisor who also is challenging King in the primary, issued a statement suggesting King continues to gain media attention “for all of the wrong reasons.”

“(King’s) comments feed the left, the mainstream media, and puts Republican control of this seat and our ability to take back Congress in jeopardy,” Taylor said. “We must nominate a conservative who can win. Only then can we be certain that the voice of (Iowa’s 4th Congressional District) will be able to fight for life in the halls of Congress next term.”

J.D. Scholten, the Democrat who nearly upset King in 2018 and recently announced he is running again in 2020, also issued a statement, accusing King of having “selfish, hateful ideology” and “excusing violence.”

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“Here in Iowa, we stand strong together in the face of violence, and strive to create a welcoming and safe community for all people,” Scholten said. “(King’s) comments are disrespectful to survivors and don’t reflect Iowan values. We stand for bringing all people together and fighting for the positive change that we desperately need here in Iowa.”

The comments also caught the attention of a few of the Democratic presidential campaigns in Iowa. Cory Booker issued a statement calling on King to resign from Congress, and Pete Buttigieg, at a campaign event in eastern Iowa, said the comments show why King must be defeated in next year’s election.

And Democrats weren’t the only ones condemning King’s comments.

In a tweet, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in House leadership, called King’s comments “appalling and bizarre” and added “it’s time for him to go.”

In seeking his 10th term representing heavily conservative western Iowa in Congress, King faces a primary challenge from three Republicans: Feenstra, Taylor and former mayor Bret Richards.

It is the most significant primary challenge during King’s career after he won re-election over Scholten in 2018 by just 3 percentage points.

King’s narrow 2018 victory and subsequent loss of committee assignments came on the heels of multiple incidents where his comments and actions garnered significant negative attention. King spent the first 15 minutes of his appearance Wednesday speaking to the Westside Conservative Club defending those past statements.

He was then touting his conservative credentials on myriad issues, including abortion, when he speculated about the possible historical impact of exceptions for rape and incest.

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