Steve King insisted again Thursday that undocumented immigrant children are often drug mules who carry illegal substances across the border from Mexico, but this time he did it on the House floor.
Despite a firestorm of criticism — including another rebuke from Speaker John A. Boehner Thursday morning — the Iowa Republican defended his comments last week that such children have "calves the size of cantaloupes" as a result of carrying drugs across the border.
“I can tell you that in Mexico they are recruiting kids to be drug smugglers,” King said Thursday afternoon to an empty House chamber. “Every night some come across the border smuggling drugs across the border. Increasingly the higher value drugs, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine in some form or another, are being strapped to the body — sometimes of young girls, teenage girls. The media is replete with this. Anybody that reads the paper should know, especially those that live on the border, should know that there are many, many young people coming across the border unlawfully who are smuggling drugs into the United States."
(King's comments on immigration begin at 22:00, though his world history lesson for the first 22:00 is also fascinating.)
Earlier Thursday, Boehner delivered a forceful, and unprompted, condemnation of King’s remarks at his weekly on-camera press briefing.
Within the first minute of his news conference, the Ohio Republican called King’s comments “deeply offensive and wrong.”
“I want to be clear: There is no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials,” Boehner said, before calling out King by name. “What he said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party.”
Meanwhile, Latina journalist Antonieta Cadiz posted a picture on Twitter of young Hispanics bringing cantaloupes to King's Capitol Hill office.
With today's newest immigration iteration, King did not seem to get the message from either Boehner or protesters.
Last week, King told conservative website Newsmax that he is sympathetic to the situation in which many undocumented children find themselves. But he said, "They aren’t all valedictorians, they weren’t all brought in by their parents."
“For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.”
King said until there is some way to tell the difference between the “innocent ones” and those who have been “undermining our culture and civilization and profiting from criminal acts,” no one should advocate for “amnesty.”
In response, Boehner issued a press release Wednesday saying King’s comments were “wrong” and his language “hateful.” Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., called the King comments “inexcusable.”
But King pressed on Wednesday night, telling Radio Iowa that he got the physical description “essentially” from the Border Patrol:
“It’s not something that I’m making up. This is real. We have people that are mules, that are drug mules, that are hauling drugs across the border and you can tell by their physical characteristics what they’ve been doing for months, going through the desert with 75 pounds of drugs on their back and if those who advocate for the DREAM Act, if they choose to characterize this about valedictorians, I gave them a different image that we need to be thinking about because we just simply can’t be passing legislation looking only at one component of what would be millions of people.”
Members say there isn't much you can do to rein in voices like that of Steve King. On Thursday, Boehner wouldn't say he would pull King from committee assignments, opting for a more subtle approach — albeit one that King does not seem to be responding to.
"We can disagree without being disagreeable," Boehner said.
Niels Lesniewski, Emma Dumain, Steven T. Dennis and Emily Pierce contributed to this report.