Steve King during a recent visit to Carroll.
Steve King during a recent visit to Carroll.

January 16, 2019

Congressman Steve King, R-Kiron, Tuesday said the leader of his party in the U.S. House made “a political decision that ignores the truth” in stripping of the western Iowan of his committee assignments over racially charged remarks.

On Monday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, backed by other Republicans, removed King from the Judiciary, Small Business and Agriculture committees. Other prominent Republicans have called on the embattled King to step down from Congress just days into his ninth term.

With a two-decades-long reputation for provocative commentary on race and culture, King crossed the line with many Republicans when he told The New York Times, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

In a news release Tuesday, King said that quote in the New York Times story has been “completely mischaracterized.”

Here’s King’s defense:

“In a 56-minute interview, we discussed the changing use of language in political discourse,” King said in the release. “We discussed the worn-out label ‘racist’ and my observation that other slanderous labels have been increasingly assigned to conservatives by the left, who injected into our current political dialogue such terms as ‘Nazi,’ ‘Fascist’…”

He continued with a reference to the quote used in the New York Times Article: “ ‘White nationalist,’ ‘white supremacist,’ ‘Western civilization’ — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

It seemed he’d sat in those classes, he continued in the release, “just to watch Western Civilization become a derogatory term in political discourse today.”

What was mischaracterized, though, King said, was the terms to which his question about offensive language applied.

“Clearly, I was only referencing Western Civilization classes,” he said in the release. “No one ever sat in a class listening to the merits of white nationalism and white supremacy. When I used the word ‘that’ it was in reference only to Western Civilization and not to any previously stated evil ideology, all of which I have denounced. My record as a vocal advocate for Western Civilization is nearly as full as my record in defense of freedom of speech.”

King said he would continue to represent the 4th District and point out what he says is the truth of his remarks.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat who has been an advocate for the extension of the software revolution from Silicon Valley, which he represents, to rural places like Jefferson, said in an interview with this newspaper that without committee assignments King can’t function fully as a representative for his district.

“Losing committee assignments is the rarest and harshest of rebukes,” Khanna said. “It usually happens if you are indicted or found guilty of serious ethical lapses. Half of the job in Congress and the serious work happens in committee. Almost any member with a sense of responsibility to their constituency and a sense of shame would resign if they were stripped of their committee assignments. It basically says that your own leadership and party has lost confidence in you. It takes 50 percent of your own caucus to vote to strip you of the committee. There is no way your bills or ideas can advance.”

Khanna’s work in bringing Silicon Valley leaders to Jefferson last month earned a mention Tuesday morning in Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Condition of the State speech. Reynolds, a Republican, also has criticized King’s remarks.

Khanna said the tech leaders he brought to Iowa for the Dec. 8 event in Jefferson highlighted by Reynolds in her speech would not have come had King been present for any of the schedule — and that was where they stood before The Times published the story on King’s observations on white nationalism.

“Bottom line, Steve King can no longer have any impact in his job,” Khanna said. “He’s a walking lame duck. He should resign for the sake of his district.”