[UPDATED BELOW] CNN's New Day used Rep. Steve King's controversial remarks on illegal immigrants to paddle the GOP and hint that bigotry is partly behind opposition to the immigration bill. King had said that for every "valedictorian" illegal immigrant, 100 more are drug smugglers.
"But it's important that he [King] said it, because this is what it's about on some level," said New Day co-host Chris Cuomo on Thursday, as if to expose some Republicans as closet bigots. "There are people who believe this and that's something they have to deal with because they keep making up reasons why they don't like the bill."
Cuomo suggested that bigotry is partly why the immigration bill hasn't passed: "But, John, is it unfair for me to suggest that this is why there's resistance to this bill on some level because they're dealing with this misperception?"
CNN's chief national correspondent John King answered, "There is no question that there is a slice of the Republican Party --" before stopping and shifting to the ridiculousness of Rep. King's words.
King tied the Congressman's comments to the GOP as a whole. "You know, the first rule of holes, right? When you're in a hole and the Republican Party is in a hole with Latino voters, stop digging. And here's Steve King, and digging and digging and digging."
He added that "go to the last election, not just Latino voters, talk to Asian voters. A lot of Asian voters who are traditionally Republican said they voted Democrat because of people like this who seem to be pushing everybody who is not white away from the Republican Party."
[UPDATE 5:46 p.m. EDT] Meanwhile, CNN's scrutiny of Republicans matched up nicely with Democratic strategist Matt Bennett's attack on CNN's The Lead at 4:52 p.m. EDT:
"This is more than a distraction. The problem for Boehner – and you could see it in his face, he looked pained – is that whether or not King actually speaks for other members of the Republican caucus, it sounds like he does. And people believe that he does. And that is a serious problem for national Republicans, and they know that."
Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on New Day on July 25 at 6:32 a.m. EDT:
KATE BOLDUAN: All right, everybody. It's time now for our political gut check – all the stories you need to know coming out of Washington and around the country. First up, been talking a lot about this, Congressman Steve King defending his remarks that many young undocumented immigrants are drug mules. CNN's chief national correspondent, John King, is here to talk more about this.
John, you know, Steve King is known to speak his mind quite often, and he is not backing down from his comment. But at a time when Republicans are trying so hard to win favor with Hispanic voters, I wonder, how damaging is one person's one lawmaker's comments to the entire party?
JOHN KING, CNN chief national correspondent: Kate and Chris, good morning. You know, the first rule of holes, right? When you're in a hole and the Republican Party is in a hole with Latino voters, stop digging.
And here's Steve King, and digging and digging and digging. The Republicans are trying this makeover. They're trying to remake the party's image, in part by doing something to heal their relationship with Latino voters and here you have Steve King playing both the role – forgive me – of dumb and dumber in making that job harder. You don't have to go to Democrats for criticism here. Just go to his own Republican leadership. Speaker John Boehner saying let's not use hateful language. If we have policy disagreements, have policy disagreements.
The entire Republican leadership is running away from Steve King. And, Kate, as you know, from your days on Capitol Hill, that's not the first time he has said things that have opened a lot of eyes and that had people roll a lot of eyes. The question now is, how deeply does it complicate Republicans both on the policy front and political front as they try to repair that relationship?
BOLDUAN: And I also think it was telling, because often you hear from leadership that one person's comment, well, this is – you guys – this is a distraction from the debate, we're focused on the real issues. They didn't seem that they could not get far away from his remarks fast enough – far enough, fast enough.
KING: But that's part of the problem, is look, the Republican leadership, Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor, they don't appreciate Steve King. They think he's a bit of a gadfly. They think he's a bit of a freak show actually when it comes to some of these policies. However, he doesn't appreciate them either. He thinks they're part of the problem. He's one of the Tea Party guys who thinks that it's not just Democrats who are wrong on policy, that his own leadership is wrong.
So, this is part of the friction and tension within the Republican Party that complicates their efforts to get anything done. We're talking about immigration now. We'll be talking about the debt ceiling and other issues a few weeks down the road, and the same characters and the same conflicts will emerge.
CUOMO: But it's important that he said it, because this is what it's about on some level. There are people who believe this and that's something they have to deal with because they keep making up reasons why they don't like the bill.
But, John, is it unfair for me to suggest that this is why there's resistance to this bill on some level because they're dealing with this misperception?
KING: There is no question that there is a slice of the Republican Party – look, you can respect somebody who disagrees with you on policy. But to say for every young immigrant, illegal immigrant, who every young kid who was brought over across the border illegally, for every one of them brought over by their parents, they had nothing in the choice, they were a baby, they were 2 they were 3, they were 5, for every one of them, there's 100 young drug mules?
Look, is the drug trafficking a problem? Of course. But for everyone, there's 100. He says he can back that up with the statistics. I'd love to see the evidence because it complicates the policy. And if you talk to – go to the last election, not just Latino voters, talk to Asian voters. A lot of Asian voters who are traditionally Republican said they voted Democrat because of people like this who seem to be pushing everybody who is not white away from the Republican Party.