Republican leaders in the House stripped Iowa Rep. Steve King of his committee assignments Monday night in response to the Republican congressman’s inflammatory and racist remarks about white supremacy. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” King said in an interview with the New York Times last week. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” With outrage growing and the Democratic leadership exploring censuring King, the House GOP removed King from the powerful Judiciary Committee, which oversees immigration and voting rights, and the Agriculture Committee, a plum assignment for a congressman representing rural Iowa. King was also stripped of his seat on the Small Business Committee.
In response to the Times story, King issued a statement attempting to distance himself from his own statement, saying he “reject[s] those labels and the evil ideology that they define.” “It’s true that like the Founding Fathers I am an advocate for Western Civilization’s values, and that I profoundly believe that America is the greatest tangible expression of these ideals the World has ever seen,” King continued. “Under any fair political definition, I am simply a Nationalist.” That equivocation, however, was not enough even for members of his own party that have long accepted the Iowa’s congressman’s racist rhetoric and association with the most abhorrent of race-based far right politics. “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” King tweeted last year in reference to immigration. That is just a single instance of many galling statements made by the United States congressman.
King’s affection for white supremacist ideology prompted a stronger than usual rebuke from his own party, including the South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said King’s comments were “unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position.” “If he doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive, he should find another line of work,” McConnell said Monday.
In response, “[Rep.] Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, conferred privately with Mr. King for an hour on Monday afternoon [and] called a special meeting of the Republican Steering Committee to consider removing Mr. King,” the Times reported Monday. “The scramble to condemn Mr. King [-] illustrated how alarmed senior Republicans are about the party’s image just two months after they lost 40 House seats, most of them in suburban or diverse districts — including seven in Mr. McCarthy’s home state of California, where the G.O.P. is on the brink of extinction.”
There are signs that despite his alignment with President Trump, King’s deep-red district is turning away from him. King is entrenched in a safe GOP seat, but in the 2018 midterms very much looked vulnerable and narrowly defeated a Democratic challenger by three points—50 to 47. King had won each of his two previous re-election bids by more than 20 percentage points. A Republican challenger, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, has already announced he will run against King in the 2020 GOP primary.
Update, 9:45 p.m.: Rep. Steve King issues a statement on his stripped committee assignments.