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02:12 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on Friday disputed claims from GOP Rep. Steve King of Iowa that the minority leader would advocate for him to get back committee assignments he was stripped of last year after making racist comments – and the top Republican declined to endorse his reelection bid.

“Congressman King’s comments cannot be exonerated and I never said that,” the California Republican said during a news conference when asked to respond to King’s recent claims.

Earlier this week, King said during a forum that he and McCarthy had “reached an agreement that he would advocate to the (Republican) Steering Committee to put all of my committees back, all of my seniority,” according to a report in the Sioux City Journal.

King went on to claim that “I have Kevin McCarthy’s word that that will be my time for exoneration.”

McCarthy announced last year that the House Republican Steering Committee, which oversees committee assignments, had decided that King “will not be serving on committees in this Congress,” a move that came after the congressman appeared to lament that the term “white supremacist” is considered offensive in an interview.

King’s comments were met with bipartisan condemnation and outrage at the time. The Iowa congressman has a lengthy history of incendiary comments related to race and immigration

McCarthy would not say on Friday if he supports King’s reelection bid, saying, “I have not taken a position on his race” and that “the constituents have a decision to make and they can make their own decision.”

The Republican House leader did say, however, that if King wins reelection, “he has the right to go to the Steering committee and the Steering committee would take up the committee assignments just like every Congress, just like every single member.” McCarthy is a member of the Steering committee along with other members of House GOP leadership.

But McCarthy added, “talking to members on the Steering committee, I think he’d get the same answer that he got before.”

In response to the Sioux City Journal’s report earlier this week, Republican Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, who sits on the committee, said that King “will not be serving on any committee.”

“Rep. Steve King claims he will get his committees back next year. As long as I am a member of the Republican Steering Committee, I will not allow hate & bigotry to influence the legislation passed by Congress. He will not be serving on any committee,” Stivers tweeted.

Haley Byrd contributed to this story.