On Thursday, Iowa Rep. Steve King took questions from members of the public at the Greater Des Moines Partnership forum. This sleepy-sounding event was interrupted when King became so enraged by a question about his views on immigration that he demanded security throw the questioner out of the event.
King has long expressed admiration for white supremacists and far-right politicians around the world. He once tweeted that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” The person asking the question at the forum, apparently a member of the general public, confronted King with the fact that his language on immigration isn’t that far from what the Pittsburgh shooter wrote before his attack.
The shooter killed 11 Jews in a synagogue last Saturday because he believed Jews were working to bring immigrants into the country, which he described as “invaders” who “kill our people.” The questioner wanted King to explain the difference between his view and the shooter’s, but before he got a chance to finish, King interrupted him. Here’s the exchange:
Here’s video, uploaded by the liberal news site Iowa Starting Line:
To be clear, this line of questioning is not unreasonable. There’s no question that King is at least comfortable with befriending white supremacists and neo-Nazis. While leading with the Pittsburgh shooting is pretty inflammatory, asking King what separates him from the worst elements of a movement he’s played footsie with seems like a legitimate thing for a voter to want to know.
Indeed, in the past month alone, King has:
- Endorsed an anti-Semite named Faith Goldy in the race for mayor of Toronto
- Used money from a Holocaust memorial organization to meet with members of an Austrian far-right party founded by neo-Nazis
- Warned in an interview with an alt-right publication that “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”
King, for his part, seems to see his response at the Q&A as righteous pushback against “Leftist Media Lies” (bear in mind the questioner was not a member of the press):
King’s support for white nationalism has gotten so blatant of late that Rep. Steve Stivers, the head of the House Republican delegation’s official campaign arm, was forced to condemn his colleague:
King’s performative anger, and somewhat odd claim that the “length of [Israel] is the length of my life,” made clear he was offended by the question, but he didn’t provide an actual answer. Instead of explaining any substantive differences between his opposition to immigration and the views of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, King silenced the questioner, making it seem like he doesn’t have a good answer.
The tense exchange comes amid several signs that King’s extreme politics on race and immigration might finally be starting to hurt him politically. Though King sailed to reelection in 2016, his Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten is closing in recent polls. My colleagues Tara Golshan and Ella Nilsen report that Scholten has massively outraised King; major corporations that have donated to King before, like Intel and Purina, have cut him off in this cycle.
If King loses — his district is deep-red — the reason will be clear: He was extremely unsubtle about his appeals to white supremacist sentiment.