Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) publicly denounced Republicans’ silence on recent “racist remarks” made by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).
Gutiérrez spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday morning, standing in front of a poster featuring tweets and quotes from King, as well as words of support for him from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
The representative first addressed King’s tweet Sunday applauding the anti-Islam stance of Geert Wilders, a former prime minister candidate in the Netherlands.
Gutiérrez broke down why King’s words were so offensive to Americans who aren’t white.
“In context, what it means is A) Steve King believes Western civilization is under attack by ‘outsiders,’ and B) those outsiders can never be assimilated or be considered part of ‘our civilization,’” he said of the tweet.
The Illinois congressman used his grandson as proof of why he feels King is wrong.
“God knows what Rep. King would think of my grandson, who likes to tell me that in this arm he’s Puerto Rican, in this one he’s Mexican, but he says, Grandpa [in my heart], I am 100 percent American,” Gutiérrez said.
A day after the tweet, King said during a radio interview with Iowa’s 1040 WHO that “Hispanics and the blacks will be fighting each other” before these two populations overtake white people in the U.S. Gutiérrez criticized Republicans for not denouncing both the tweet and the comments.
“If he traveled somewhere without getting permission or he accepted a gift like tickets to a game without the prior approval of the Congress, he would be punished. He might get censured or called out in some way,” Gutiérrez said. “But for making racist comments, for supporting a racist candidate in someone else’s election, or for saying things that receive high praise from David Duke and the KKK, nothing is going to happen.”
“I have not heard leaders in the Republican Party scrambling to say that Steve King does not represent their views on race, religion, diversity, and the threat that ‘somebody else’s babies’ pose to American civilization,” he continued.
The congressman went on to say people like King say “hurtful, xenophobic” things because they feel empowered by the presence of White House advisers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a president “who wants us all to fear Muslims, to fear Mexicans and frankly, to fear all Latinos, even my American-born grandson.”
Gutiérrez warned about the consequences of normalizing rhetoric like King’s.
“This is what happens when good American men and women remain silent,” he said. “When we do not stand up to the bully, the racist, and the nationalist, they get more and more empowered and their actions become more and more normal.”
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate, similarly called King’s tweet “offensive.” She also echoed Gutiérrez’s concerns about the impact of King’s remarks.
“Whether it’s the rhetoric coming out from the Trump administration, or people affiliated with that administration, or members of Congress who are continuing down this path of this racist rhetoric, it is having consequences,” Cortez Masto told a small group of Hispanic reporters on Tuesday. “And anybody hearing it should step up and call it for what it is and hold it accountable so that people know that we’re not going to stand for it. And we are going to protect those who will be at the receiving end of that discriminatory racist rhetoric.”
Watch Gutiérrez’s full remarks in the video above.