After questioning how the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” had “become offensive” in a recent interview with The New York Times, Republican congressman Steve King of Iowa was harshly rebuked by GOP leaders and stripped of all his committee assignments in the current Congress.
“We will not tolerate this in the Republican Party,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declared Monday, referring to King’s racist views.
McCarthy failed to mention, however, the many years of tolerance that the GOP — including President Donald Trump — has shown to King’s lengthy history of bigotry. King, who was elected to a ninth term in November and held seats on the House committees on agriculture, the judiciary and small business, has been repeatedly called out over the years for his ties to white supremacists and his incendiary remarks about race and immigration, including a 2017 tweet described as “the most racist comment by a member of the U.S. Congress in decades.”
Yet, save for the occasional verbal reproach, Republicans have largely turned a blind eye to the congressman’s racism.
King is unapologetically anti-immigration. In 2013, he suggested that a vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. were “drug mules.”
“For everyone 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,” the congressman told conservative network Newsmax TV about undocumented immigrants.
King has also referred to immigrants as “dirt” and has compared them to hunting dogs.
The U.S. should pick only the best immigrants the way one chooses the “pick of the litter,” King told his constituents in a 2012 Iowa town hall. “You want a good bird dog? You want one that’s going to be aggressive? Pick the one that’s the friskiest … not the one that’s over there sleeping in the corner,” quipped the congressman.
King’s idea for a massive, and possibly electrified, border wall at the U.S.-Mexico border long predates President Trump’s. King first brought the idea to the House of Representatives in 2006. In recent years, he’s emerged as one of most vocal supporters of Trump’s proposed barrier.
King, who adorned his desk with a Confederate flag, once suggested that America should not have to apologize for slavery.
In the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of an 18-year-old black man by a white police officer, King said on Newsmax TV that racial profiling was not a factor because all the protesters were of a “single … continental origin.”
King has repeatedly suggested that “Western civilization” is a “superior culture.” In an MSNBC panel discussion in 2016, he argued that white people had contributed more to society than any other “subgroup.”
“Where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization” than white people? King said.
In 2017, King came under fire for sharing an anti-Muslim cartoon of Geert Wilders, an Islamophobic politician from the Netherlands, and tweeting: “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
A columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer said at the time that King’s remark was the most racist made by a member of Congress in many years.
Pushed to reprimand King for his comments, then-Speaker Paul Ryan said, “I’d like to think he misspoke.” King later clarified that he’d “meant exactly” what he said.
King’s ties with white supremacists are well-documented.
In October, the congressman endorsed Toronto mayoral candidate and white nationalist Faith Goldy. That same month, it emerged that King had done an interview with a far-right publication in Austria in which he’d discussed the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory ― the belief that immigration, particularly from Muslim-majority countries, will mean the extinction of white European culture and identity.
“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 said.
Days after that interview was reported by HuffPost, a white supremacist opened fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people.
The mass shooting prompted renewed scrutiny of King’s history of bigotry and several corporate donors and a few Republican leaders distanced themselves from him at the time.
It wasn’t till Monday, however, that the GOP finally took action against the congressman.