WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday elevated his criticism of fellow Republican Rep. Steve King over King’s suggestion that many immigrants in the country illegally are drug runners, calling the comments “deeply offensive and wrong.”
Boehner already had issued a written statement earlier in the week condemning King’s remarks, but at his weekly news conference, he ramped up his criticism even without being asked. The Ohio Republican took the unusual step of calling King out by name, dramatizing the concern among GOP leaders that incendiary comments from the right can tarnish the party’s image even as lawmakers struggle to find a solution to the immigration debate.
“I want to be clear. There’s no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials,” Boehner said.
“What he said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party,” the speaker said, “and we all need to do our work in a constructive, open and respectful way.”
Boehner also said that King’s comments made grappling with immigration legislation more difficult, “but I’m going to continue to work with members who want to get to a solution, as opposed to those who want to do nothing.”
King, R-Iowa, told a conservative news website last week that with respect to immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as kids, “for every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
The comments began to circulate widely on Tuesday, drawing condemnation from Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., other Republicans and numerous Democrats including White House press secretary Jay Carney. They’ve also already become fodder for at least one pro-Democratic political fundraising group, the House Majority PAC, which highlighted them in an email to supporters Thursday.