After years of making racist and other problematic remarks, Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King has finally gone too far — even for members of his own party.
Two Democrats in King’s own chamber, Reps. Bobby Rush and Tim Ryan, are filing separate resolutions to censure him, which would essentially be a formal punishment, short of kicking him out of Congress. Democrat House Majority Whip James Clyburn also said he intends to introduce a measure that would reprimand King but not censure him.
“He has become too comfortable with proudly insulting, disrespecting, and denigrating people of color. As with any animal that is rabid, Steve King should be set aside and isolated,” Rep. Rush, an Illinois Democrat, said in a press release announcing the censure resolution. “His rabid racism continues to stain and embarrass this body and the years of deliberate silence from Republicans have only emboldened his ignorant and immoral behavior and empowered those who emulate him.”
Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stepped up to say there’s “no place in the Republican Party, the Congress, or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy of any kind.”
“Rep. King’s statements are 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 told the Washington Post.
King — who Trump once dubbed the “world’s most conservative human being” — has a long history of explosive comments, especially regarding race. He once said “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” and more recently met with and endorsed groups and political figures associated with white nationalism, although he defends his beliefs as simply “pro-Western.”
But his interview with the New York Times last week — when King questioned why being a “white supremacist” was so bad — appeared to tip the scales.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King asked in an interview with the Times. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
That quickly led to backlash from Democrats and members of his own political party. Sen. Ted Cruz called it “stupid.” Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said King’s remarks were “not representative of our state of Iowa.” House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy promised “action will be taken” to address King’s comments, but he didn’t elaborate.
Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, now a senator, has also called on King to resign.
After the Times story published, King condemned white supremacy in a tweet last week. (When VICE News asked him in November whether he’d ever publicly state that he’s not a white supremacist, he called it a “leftist question” and walked away.)
“The New York Times is suggesting I am an advocate for white nationalism and white supremacy,” King said on Twitter. “I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I reject those labels and the evil ideology they define.”
“Under any fair political definition, I am simply a nationalist,” he added.
King has won re-election in Iowa’s ultra-conservative 4th Congressional District a few times since 2003. But this year, he faced a hard re-election battle against Democrat and former professional baseball player J.D. Scholten. The National Republican Congressional Committee also pulled support and big-label donors backed out of King’s campaign after he endorsed a Toronto mayoral candidate aligned with white nationalists. King also met with members of an Austrian group associated with neo-Nazis.
“Paul Ryan allowed him to be who he was for years,” Scholten told VICE News, adding that King’s comments to the Times weren’t surprising since he'd made similar ones before the election. “Maybe it’s the changing of the guard that needed to take place.”
Cover image: Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, attends a rally with Angel Families on the East Front of the Capitol, to highlight crimes committed by illegal immigrants in the U.S., on September 7, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)