Boehner on Steve King: 'No Place' for 'Hateful or Ignorant Comments' in Immigration Debate

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) today reiterated his criticism of "deeply offensive and wrong" statements by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in the immigration debate.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) began reaping criticism from his own party and Democrats after a Newsmax interview in which he discussed children of illegal immigrants and DREAM Act-style efforts to give them a path to citizenship. "For everyone 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," King said. "Those people would be legalized with the same act."

Boehner originally condemned the comments in a statement, but brought up King at the outset of a news conference on the Hill today.

"Our focus is on getting the policy right, so we fix our immigration system once and for all, and help our economy grow," he said. "I want to be clear. There's no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials. Earlier this week, Representative Steve King made comments that were, I think, deeply offensive and wrong. What he said does not reflect the values of the American people, or the Republican party, and we all need to do our work in a constructive, open and respectful way. As I've said many times, we can disagree, but without being disagreeable."

When asked if he felt King's comments were so offensive that he be removed from the Judiciary Committee, Boehner replied, "I think I've made myself very clear when it comes to Mr. King."

King took to the House floor for 20 minutes today to defend his comments and challenge his critics to duke it out in open forum.

"I challenge people to debate with me because I believe one of two things," King said. "If I can't sustain myself in debate, I need to go get some more information, I need to get better informed, or could it be that I'm wrong?"

The congressman said the border isn't as porous these days because the Mexican economy has been growing faster than America's.

"Eighty to 90 percent of the illegal drugs consumed in America come from or through Mexico," King said. "I can tell you that in Mexico they are recruiting kids to be drug smugglers, between the ages of 11 and 18.”

Over on the Senate side, Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) called King's comments "very unhelpful, not right."

"Are there illegal drugs coming over the border? Yeah. I'm not Pollyannaish about this; I understand that. There's illegal drugs probably coming in, in a number of different directions. There's probably illegal drugs going down Interstate 80 through Nebraska as I speak," said Johanns, who voted against the Group of Eight bill.

"But using that as a -- with flashpoint rhetoric is just so unnecessary. It's just unhelpful. And, you know, if you want to go after drug-smugglers, fine, go after them, you know? Put a bill in, see if you can find funding, do what you can to get it stopped, but I think tangling it up in the immigration debate is so completely unnecessary. And like I said, it's flashpoint rhetoric. And it just doesn't help. It doesn't help the debate."

King said on the House floor today that "every night" some children are caught smuggling drugs across the border.

"No nation like the United States of America can continue to grow and be a strong nation if we are going to judge people because they disagree with our agenda rather than the content of their statement," he said. "We have to be critical thinkers, we have to be analytical, we should understand facts from emotion."