Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, compared immigrants to dogs at a town hall meeting yesterday, telling constituents that the U.S. should pick only the best immigrants the way one chooses the “pick of the litter.”
King told the crowd in Pocahontas, Iowa, that he’s owned lots of bird dogs over the years and advised, “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.”
King suggested lazy immigrants should be avoided as well. “You get the pick of the litter and you got yourself a pretty good bird dog. Well, we’ve got the pick of every donor civilization on the planet,” King said. “We’ve got the vigor from the planet to come to America.” The liberal research group American Bridge captured the comments:
King has long been one of Congress’ most vociferous and toxic opponents of illegal immigration and “amnesty,” often partnering with notorious immigration hawks like former congressman Tom Tancredo and Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In 2010, he took to the House floor to declare that he could detect “illegals” by their footwear and his “sixth sense.”
Lately, however, King has backed off his inflammatory rhetoric, thanks to a tough challenge from Democrat Christie Vilsack. His bird dog comments suggest, however, that his mouth will continue to dog him.
Update: In a statement, Vilsack’s campaign said, “If we’re going to have a real discussion on immigration, we should start by acknowledging that immigrants are human beings. Iowans are taught in their community, in their church, and at the dinner table to respect each other, not to compare people to dogs. People expect a serious discussion between candidates and that’s what we’re committed to.”
Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.