A growing number of Republicans are publicly distancing themselves from Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) claim that many undocumented youths are drug mules with cantaloupe-sized calves, but the conservative congressman claims that GOP lawmakers are backing him in private.
During an appearance on Fox News on Saturday, King said that Republicans are in fact standing by him, but are afraid to publicly support him for fear of sparking outrage and losing their legislative leverage.
“My colleagues are standing by me. They come up to me constantly and talk to me and say, you’re right, I know you’re right,” King said. “Is the description such that they have to go out to the press and do a press conference or can they come and tell me, I know you’re right, I support you? They can do that privately,” he said:
KING: You know, they have a lot at stake here. There is a leverage within the House of Representatives and they all need to be concerned about their own leverage, so I’m not asking them to step forward, I wouldn’t ask them to step forward. I don’t want them to take repercussions.
King reiterated that he has seen and heard undocumented youths with cantaloupe-sized calves cross the border and even confirmed those details with border patrol agents since his remarks attracted controversy. “I got a call from [border patrol] yesterday and I said, do I need to come back down and refresh myself? They said ‘no, you’re spot on with what you’re saying but maybe you got the weight ten pounds up,’” he said.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) are the most prominent Republicans to condemn King’s comments, but the Iowa congressman remains highly influential in the Republican caucus. King recently authored an amendment in the House to deport DREAMers, which passed with nearly unanimous Republican support. Labrador and Ryan were among the 221 GOPers who voted for the measure.
The House of Representatives is expected to consider a series of immigration reform bills in the fall.