Iowa Congressman Steve King got so angry about a line of questioning from a member of the public at a candidates forum Thursday that he threw the man out of the room.
The Republican rep was pressed on his alleged recent coziness with white nationalists and long history of blatantly racist comments, while a few dozen anti-King protesters gathered outside the Des Moines event.
Kaleb Van Fossen, a student at Iowa State who lives in King’s red-leaning west Iowa district, started by noting that the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter had frequently expressed anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic views on the website Gab. “You and the shooter share an ideology that is anti-immigration,” Van Fossen said to King. Before he could finish, King interrupted. “Do not associate me with the shooter whatsoever,” King said. “I knew you were an ambusher when you walked in the room. There’s no basis for that and you get no questions.”
King, who has won re-election every year since 2003 in the conservative district, is now on the ropes , as decades of simmering accusations that he harbors racist views have finally come to a head. Several corporate brands pulled their support for him earlier this week, and he's been facing protests at his public appearances. Recent polls suggest he’s leading by just one point, despite taking home 61 percent of the vote in 2016.
Van Fossen continued, saying he only wanted to ask what distinguishes King’s views from those of the Pittsburgh shooter.
“You’ve crossed the line. It’s not tolerable to accuse me of being associated with a guy who killed 11 people in Pittsburgh,” a visibly angry King said. “I am a person who supported Israel from the beginning. I’ve been with them all along and I will not answer your question.”
The speaker persisted, speaking calmly. “If you don’t have a white supremacist worldview, then why did you travel to Austria to meet with a white supremacist organization,” he asked. “Do you identify as a white supremacist?”
“Stop it!” King, 64, shouted.
“Then why did you meet with white supremacists?” he asked again.
King then asked security to intervene and remove his interrogator from the room.
King recently traveled to Austria on a trip funded by a Holocaust Memorial Group, and met with members of a far-right Nazi-linked Austrian party. On the same trip, King also gave an interview to a far-right publication, according to the Huffington Post, and laid his white nationalism bare, as he discussed European superiority, falling fertility rates in the United States, and the threats posed by Arab and Latino immigration to “Western civilization” — echoing similar comments he's made over the years.
In the wake of the hate-fueled synagogue shooting, King’s views, and his recent jaunt to Austria, have come under renewed scrutiny. Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee, released a statement condemning King after he was briefed on his remarks in Austria. Meanwhile, major donors like Intel, Land O’Lakes and Purina have all cut ties with King, as have Black Hills Energy and Pork company Smithfield Foods Inc.
King’s office did not respond to VICE News' request for comment, but King tweeted a link to the video of the encounter, with the caption, “Leftist Media Lies have reached Peak Insanity and compared me to the evil Pittsburgh murderer of 11 Jews! Here is my reaction.”