In the home district of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on Saturday, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said he was “disappointed” the House of Representatives didn’t go further this year in punishing the Iowa lawmaker for his racist comments.
The House stopped short of deciding to censure or expel the Iowa politician after he was quoted as asking why the term “white nationalist” was offensive. Since then, King has continued to spout racist hate.
HuffPost’s Washington bureau chief, Amanda Terkel, asked Ryan at Saturday’s Heartland Forum in Storm Lake, Iowa, whether the House should consider censuring or expelling the Iowa politician now.
“I offered for him to be censured by the House. I think that is entirely appropriate,” Ryan said. “I think the House should act, and I was disappointed that they didn’t.”
In January, Republicans decided to strip King of his congressional committee assignments following renewed outrage over his long history of white nationalist views. At the time, King had asked in an interview with The New York Times how terms like “white nationalist, white supremacist [and] Western civilization” had become “offensive” terms.
“If he doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive, he should find another line of work,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told The Washington Post at the time.
Ryan said that he didn’t believe in censuring King because of “one comment” but because of the Iowa representative’s “consistent comments over time.”
“Most abhorrently overseas,” he added.
Last year, King faced criticism after meeting with members of a far-right Austrian group with Nazi ties during a trip to Europe.
“What does this diversity bring that we don’t already have?” King asked during his trip. “Mexican food, Chinese food, those things — well, that’s fine. But what does it bring that we don’t have that is worth the price? We have a lot of diversity within the U.S. already.”
“You’re representing the United States government. You are an officer of the government. You are a member of Congress,” Ryan said Saturday, referring to King. “To make some of these comments there is entirely inappropriate. I think he’s playing along with a lot of the race-baiting that the president participates in, which I think is totally unnecessary and insulting and part of the reason why we’re so divided as a country.”
Ryan, who has said he is considering a run for the presidency, was joined at the Heartland Forum, co-sponsored by HuffPost and held at Buena Vista University, by Democratic presidential candidates including Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.). The forum centered on rural issues and corporate power.
Trump won Buena Vista County by almost 35 percentage points in the 2016 election, but Storm Lake is a different kind of city. Standing in stark contrast to Iowa as a whole, less than half of the city is non-Hispanic white, and 9 in 10 students enrolled in elementary school are immigrants.