In an interview with the New York Times published Thursday, Representative Steve King (R., Iowa) expressed confusion about why his invoking the term “white supremacist” would offend his fellow Americans.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said when asked about the accusations of racism levied against him by fellow Republican lawmakers, among others. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
King was reelected for the ninth time in November, but by a significantly smaller margin than in the past, likely due to a recent series of racially charged moves including his endorsement of Faith Goldy, a Toronto mayoral candidate who has expressed sympathy for neo-Nazis, and his meeting with members of a right-wing Austrian political party that engages in Holocaust denial.
During his trip to Austria in October, King endorsed the so-called “great replacement theory,” a long running nationalist conspiracy that attributes demographic change in majority-European states to a conspiracy of elites intent on destroying western culture. “Great replacement, yes,” he said. “These people walking into Europe by ethnic migration, 80 percent are young men.”
In October, following King’s trip to Austria, Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, the chairman of House Republicans’ campaign committee, explicitly condemned his colleague and urged fellow Republicans to “stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms.” Corporate donors to King’s previous campaigns, including Purina, Land O’Lakes, and Smithfield, also disavowed King and discontinued their financial support.
King, who was long excluded from the Republican establishment, met with President Trump early in his term and took credit for “market testing” the immigration restrictionism that formed a central part of the president’s platform. He now faces a 2020 primary challenge from Republican Randy Feenstra, an assistant majority leader in the State Senate, who has bemoaned the damage his opponent’s race-related “distractions’’ have done to the interests of the district’s residents.
Update 2:15 p.m.: Amid backlash to the Times interview from fellow Republican lawmakers and conservative pundits, King released a statement decrying racism and pushing back against the accusation that he is a white supremacist or sympathetic to racist ideology.
My statement on the New York Times article. pic.twitter.com/IjBHgZYgRD
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) January 10, 2019