U.S. Congressman Steve King answers questions from his constituents Saturday morning in Carroll. About 40 people attended.
U.S. Congressman Steve King answers questions from his constituents Saturday morning in Carroll. About 40 people attended.

Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Kiron, defended himself Saturday against claims of racism and bigotry with a story that ended with him sitting at a table with two gay men and a Jewish man.

His remarks came during a town-hall-style meeting at the Carroll Chamber of Commerce. About 40 people attended, and some were allowed to ask questions after they were screened by King’s aide.

“If we can’t get you back on a committee, this country is going to hell in a handbasket,” said Dr. Allen Anneberg, of Carroll, a long-time King supporter.

King was stripped of his committee assignments by his Republican colleagues in January after The New York Times published a quotation of his that questioned why phrases such as “white supremacy” are considered offensive.

King told Anneberg and his other constituents Saturday that his words were taken out of context and that he would soon move to regain his seats on the Agriculture and Judiciary committees of the U.S. House of Representatives.

His removal from those committees shut him out of substantial portions of the legislative process, which has led some to question how he can effectively represent the northwestern quadrant of Iowa.

“It was a political lynch mob, and you have to let their blood cool before you can reason with a lynch mob,” King said.

He said his staff has authored a six-page document that attempts to prove to his fellow lawmakers that he was misquoted by the Times. His staff has examined his quotations in news media dating back to 2000 and have not found other instances of King using the phrases “white nationalist” or “white supremacist.”

“I’m about out of patience,” King said of the loss of committee assignments. “I want to do it the nice way. I want to do it a democratic way, but some way or another this is going to come to a head, because it’s wrong.”

King declined to identify what other avenues he might use to regain his assignments when later asked by a reporter. He declined to answer any questions from reporters at the event.

To further illustrate his alleged unfair treatment by news media, King attacked a Washington Post article that detailed his August trip to Europe — which was paid for by a Holocaust memorial group — during which he visited Jewish and Holocaust historical sites in Poland. The Post article reported that King extended his trip to visit Austria — which he paid for with his own money — and meet with “members of a far-right Austrian party with historical Nazi ties.”

“I was introduced to five people I didn’t know,” King said Saturday of his time in Vienna. “We sat down at the table, and during that pause of who’s going to talk first, the gentleman on my right said, ‘Congressman, I think you should know that you’re seated at the table with two homosexuals and a Jew.’ The man across the table said right away, ‘Well, who’s the Jew?’ And that told the rest of us he knew who the other homosexual was, I guess.”

Some people in the audience Saturday chuckled.

“But I tell you this because nobody is doing any neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic plots with homosexuals and Jews at the table,” King concluded. “It’s the most improbable configuration of people possible.”

Anneberg, 89, vouched for King’s character and said he has backed King since his first election to the House in 2002.

I’ve never known you as a bigot, a racist, or a radical white supremacist, whatever the hell that is,” said Anneberg, who rang a cowbell several times to show his support for King.