An Iowa congressman apologized Wednesday for disparaging comments he made last week at the state Republican convention about a veteran White House correspondent.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, was discussing the June 7 death of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on Saturday when he mentioned 85-year-old Helen Thomas, who has covered the White House for nearly 50 years and is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers.

“There probably are not 72 virgins in the hell he’s at,” King said about al-Zarqawi, in a recording transcribed by Radio Iowa. “And if there are, they probably all look like Helen Thomas.”

Spokeswoman Summer Johnson said in an e-mail Wednesday that King has apologized to Thomas.

The two-term congressman is running for re-election. Joyce Schulte, King’s Democratic opponent in November, said the remarks were uncivil.

Thomas did not immediately return calls seeking comment.


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