WASHINGTON -- Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on Sunday stood by eyebrow-raising comments he made in May, insisting that he was praising immigrants when he compared selecting visa recipients to choosing a "good bird dog."
"It was a compliment ... They knew it was a compliment, they turned it into an insult because they're professional hyperventilators," the immigration hardliner said in an interview on Des Moines NBC affiliate WHO-TV, posted by a site run by the campaign of his Democratic opponent, Christie Vilsack.
King said at a town hall earlier this year that when picking a good bird dog, it is important to avoid choosing "the one that's sleeping in the corner." He then added that immigrants to the United States should be looked at in the same way.
"You get the pick of the litter and you got yourself a pretty good bird dog. Well, we’ve got the pick of every donor civilization on the planet," King said at the time. "We’ve got the vigor from the planet to come to America."
The WHO-TV anchor also asked about other controversial comments King has made, such as saying in July that President Barack Obama's mother "might've announced [his birth] by telegram from Kenya" to Hawaii, where Obama was born and a birth announcement appeared -- essentially an endorsement of the idea that the president might not have born in the United States.
King said Sunday he never claimed Obama wasn't born in the United States, and that he was simply repeating the concerns of others. Still, he didn't fully disavow birtherism.
"I don't know where he was born, but I don't see the indication that he was born anywhere else," he said.
King also stood behind claims that Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, may have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
"If you look at her family connections and the family orientation, I think it's very clear," he said. "I don't have all her family committed to memory and the family tree, but there's a strong connection that's there, it does exist. ... It appears to be the objective truth."
The WHO-TV anchors went on to ask King about his views on contraception and abortion. He said he has no opinion on whether states should be able to ban contraception -- although he has spoken before about why they may be constitutionally allowed to ban it. He said that he was simply relaying one side's argument, but he also did not say he disagrees with it. King said he has "not taken a position on the sale of contraceptives at all."
On abortion, he said he would consider supporting exceptions for incest and statutory rape. He previously said he hasn't heard of anyone getting pregnant from such situations, and currently supports federal funding for abortion only after "forcible" rape.
"I would be open to discussion, I have not considered it," he said of allowing abortion funding in cases of incest and statutory rape. "The subject had never been brought up to me in all my public life before that interview. And when I say that I'm open to discussion, I'm open to discussion, but I'm not coming to a conclusion."
King currently leads Vilsack by four points, according to an estimate from HuffPost Pollster.