NBC News Tells Staffers Not To Call Steve King’s Racist Remarks Racist (UPDATE: NBC Changes Guidance)

The news organization issued further guidance Tuesday afternoon, saying that it was, in fact, fair to describe King's comments that way.

UPDATE: 2:15 p.m. ― Shortly after this story was initially published Tuesday, NBC News advised its staffers it was, in fact, fair to describe Rep. Steve King’s remarks on white supremacy as “racist.”

“We revised our guidance on Rep. Steve King’s comments,” reads an email from NBC News’ standards department that was shared with HuffPost. “It is fair to characterize King’s comments as ‘racist,’ and point out that he has a history of racist comments, and the context can be shared that others hold that view as well.”


NBC News’ standards department sent an email to staffers Tuesday telling them not to directly refer to Rep. Steve King’s recent comments about white supremacy as “racist.”

“Be careful to avoid characterizing [King’s] remarks as racist,” reads the email, which two NBC News staffers shared with HuffPost. “It is ok to attribute to others as in ‘what many are calling racist’ or something like that.”

The email was sent to staffers by Susan Sullivan, a senior employee in the standards division at NBC News. In a news organization, the standards department offers guidance and issues rules about what is legally and ethically appropriate to report, and about how certain topics should be covered.

NBC News did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article.

King, an Iowa Republican, has a long history of making racist remarks. The latest controversy came about following the Jan. 10 publication of an interview with The New York Times, where he said: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

In a statement later that day, King said: “Today, the New York Times is suggesting that I am an advocate for white nationalism and white supremacy. I want to make one thing abundantly clear; I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define. Further, I condemn anyone that supports this evil and bigoted ideology which saw in its ultimate expression the systematic murder of 6 million innocent Jewish lives.”

As HuffPost has previously reported, it was clear long before the Times interview that King holds white supremacist beliefs.

In the days since that interview, other news organizations, including the Times, have not shied away from describing King’s comments as racist. Several of King’s fellow conservative politicians have done so as well, including Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who said in a tweet: “I condemn Rep. Steve King’s comments on white supremacy; they are offensive and racist.”

On Monday, in a rebuke for his racist comments, House Republican leaders stripped King of all of his committee assignments.

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