(CNN) - Rep. Peter King said fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul owes the nation’s top intelligence official an apology after saying he should resign for “lying” to a Senate committee about a controversial surveillance program.
The New York congressman also said that Paul's comparison of National Intelligence Director James Clapper to NSA leaker Edward Snowden is "absolutely disgraceful."
"For Senator Paul to compare that patriot, General Clapper, with someone like Snowden, who is a traitor, who has put American lives at risk - Senator Paul should be ashamed of himself," King said Thursday on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”
"It's an absolute disgrace. He disgraced his office and he owes General Clapper an apology immediately."
Paul told CNN on Wednesday that public congressional testimony by Clapper last March denying the existence of a sweeping electronic data collection program at the National Security Agency had done more to damage the credibility of the intelligence community than the leaks by Snowden that blew the whistle on the spying initiative.
Paul, a Kentucky Republican with strong tea party-backing, and King are both considered likely GOP presidential candidates in 2016.
Clapper apologized to the Senate committee for giving members a "clearly erroneous" answer about the surveillance programs.
Intelligence leaks exposed by Snowden, a former government contractor, revealed that the NSA, indeed, had extensive, classified electronic surveillance of telephone and e-mail records.
Clapper later said he was faced with trying to answer a question about a program that at the time was still classified when explaining the discrepancy in his testimony to Congress and the information that arose from the Snowden leaks.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday, seven Republican Senators said Clapper's "willful lie under oath fuels the unhealthy cynicism and distrust that citizens feel toward their government" and compromises Congressional oversight functions.
Responding to the letter, a spokesman for Clapper underscored the previous explanation of his testimony and highlighted his long-standing reputation of honesty.
"DNI Clapper has been testifying before members of Congress for more than two decades and he enjoys a well-earned reputation as a doggedly honest and honorable public servant," said Clapper spokesman Shawn Turner.
"He apologized for the confusion caused by his response and is focused on working with the intelligence committees to increase transparency while protecting critical intelligence sources and methods."
King said these Republicans calling for Clapper’s resignation are part of "the isolationist wing of the party.
A review of NSA surveillance ordered by President Barack Obama and released recommended changes to the surveillance program including greater judicial oversight and more public transparency.