The Slatest

An Emboldened Rep. Steve King Wants to Know When “White Supremacist” Became Offensive

Steve King sits behind a desk with a microphone and bottle of water.
Rep. Steve King.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Iowa Rep. Steve King, who has openly supported white nationalist policies, appears to feel satisfied by President Donald Trump’s attempt to bring fringe anti-immigrant talking points long espoused by King into the mainstream in his campaign for a border wall, as the New York Times reported Thursday.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” King asked the Times in an interview. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

The report comes one day after Iowa state Sen. Randy Feenstra announced that he planned to challenge King in the Republican primary in 2020, in part because the “current representative’s caustic nature has left us without a seat at the table.” King, who was first elected to Congress in the deep-red district in Iowa in 2002, narrowly beat a Democratic challenger last year.

While the question King posed to the Times is itself shocking, King’s support for white supremacy has long been documented. A list of some things he has said and done, in no particular order:

• In 2016, King said on MSNBC that white people (or Western civilization—an only slightly improved reading of his statement—if you’re feeling generous) are the “subgroup of people” who have contributed the most to the world.
• He tweeted last year that “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” a key belief of white nationalism.
• That tweet was in support of the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has said he “hates Islam” and wants to ban the Quran. King also hosted Wilders at a breakfast.
• King retweeted a neo-Nazi who believes pornography is part of a Jewish plot to destroy Christian families and morality.
• He complained the U.S. was becoming a “third world country” because of immigrants, whom he also blamed for the threats of ISIS and Ebola.
• He has displayed a Confederate flag in his office, despite being from the decidedly not-Southern state of Iowa. After the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting, he continued to defend displaying the flag in public buildings.
• He once tweeted out a cartoon of Obama wearing a turban while vowing revenge for the Crusades.
• King dismissed concerns about the racial profiling of Ferguson, Missouri, protesters because they were all “of a single origin, I should say, a continental origin.”
• He complained this August about the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that contends mass migration is destroying white civilization.
• In that interview, he also said: “If we don’t defend Western civilization, then we will become subjugated by the people who are the enemies of faith, the enemies of justice” and blamed abortion for killing “millions” of white babies.
• In August, he also met with a far-right Austrian party with historical ties to Nazis.
• In 2013, he said that for every child of undocumented immigrants “who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

While a few people in his party have loudly condemned the congressman’s openly racist behavior, Trump, who once called King a “smart person with, really, the right views on almost everything,” has not joined them in doing so. Trump has boasted about raising money for King’s campaigns, as the Times noted. The president’s current language about the “crisis” at the border reflects only loyalty to King’s rhetorical legacy.

Update, Jan. 10, 2019, at 2:43 p.m.: In a statement Thursday afternoon, King responded to the Times article by rejecting the idea that his advocacy for “Western Civilization’s values” makes him a white nationalist:

Today, the New York Times is suggesting that I am an advocate for white nationalism and white supremacy. I want to make one thing abundantly clear; I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define. Further, I condemn anyone that supports this evil and bigoted ideology which saw in its ultimate expression the systematic murder of 6 million innocent Jewish lives.

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. Under any fair political definition, I am simply a Nationalist. America’s values are expressed in our founding documents, they are attainable by everyone and we take pride that people of all races, religions, and creeds from around the globe aspire to achieve them. I am dedicated to keeping America this way.

This conviction does not make me a white nationalist or a white supremacist. Once again, I reject those labels and the ideology that they define. As I told the New York Times, ‘it’s not about race; it’s never been about race.’ One of my most strongly held beliefs is that we are all created in God’s image and that human life is sacred in all its forms.