Washington, D.C.: The lone black Republican in the US Senate launched a blistering attack Friday on a fellow Republican congressman who has been accused of making racist comments.

“Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism — it is because of our silence when things like this are said,” Senator Tim Scott said of the remarks by Representative Steve King of Iowa.

King, in an interview with The New York Times this week, asked how the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” had become offensive to Americans.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilisation — how did that language become offensive?” King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilisation?”

Scott responded to King’s remarks with a column in The Washington Post, and they were also denounced by several other members of the Republican Party.

“Anyone who needs ‘white nationalist’ or ‘white supremacist’ defined, described and defended does lack some pretty common knowledge,” said the senator from South Carolina.

“White nationalists and white supremacists have strewn (havoc) across our nation for hundreds of years,” he said.

“When people with opinions similar to King’s open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole,” Scott said.

Kevin McCarthy, leader of the Republican minority in the House of Representatives, also condemned King’s comments.

“Everything about white supremacy and white nationalism goes against who we are as a nation,” McCarthy said. “Steve’s language is reckless, wrong, and has no place in our society.”

King insisted to the Times that he was not racist and pointed out pictures on Twitter of him meeting people of various religions and races.

“I want to make one thing abundantly clear; I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define,” King added in a statement.

King described himself — “like the Founding Fathers” — as an advocate for Western values and “simply a nationalist.”

King is known for espousing hard-line views on immigration and has long backed building a wall along the southern border with Mexico.

Bid to oust Muslim fails in Texas

King, 69, narrowly won re-election in November after easy victories in previous years. A Republican member of the Iowa state senate announced on Wednesday he would challenge King in the 2020 Republican primary.

While King was under fire, a branch of the Republican Party in Texas was involved in a religious controversy because of an effort to oust a member of the local party leadership because he was a Muslim.

After Shahid Shafi, a trauma surgeon, was named a vice-chairman of the Republican Party in Tarrant County in July, members of a Facebook group called “Protect Texas” began calling for his ouster because of his Muslim faith.

The executive committee of the Tarrant County GOP voted 139-49 on Thursday night to retain Shafi as the vice-chairman of the local branch of the party.

Shafi, in a statement on his Facebook page, said the past several months had been “extremely difficult” for him and his family.

But he said the committee vote had “reaffirmed” his “faith in our party and our country.”

“With today’s vote, we have taken a stand against bigotry ... against religious discrimination, and to protect our Constitution and the freedoms offered by our Country,” he said.

“It is time to put this division to rest,” he added. “I have no animosity towards my detractors, they are simply misguided.”