Rep. Steve King's campaign attacks Parkland shooting survivor for expressing Cuban pride

The etiquette-challenged congressman creates a social media uproar in attacking a school shooting survivor

Published March 26, 2018 6:50PM (EDT)

Emma Gonzalez
Emma Gonzalez

Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who has a penchant for controversy and attention-grabbing rhetoric, has created an uproar on social media — again. This time, the congressman is being widely condemned after he or someone managing his campaign's Facebook page shared a meme on Sunday criticizing a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student and shooting survivor for wearing a patch of the Cuban flag.

"This is how you look when you claim Cuban heritage yet don't speak Spanish and ignore the fact that your ancestors fled the island when dictatorship turned Cuba into a prison camp, after removing all weapons from its citizens; hence their right to self defense," the meme said alongside an image of Cuban-American Emma González, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, speaking at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.

King's congressional office told The Washington Post that King's campaign team was responsible for the image. The meme elicited hundreds of comments, many of them criticizing the congressman and defending González.

"Are you SERIOUSLY mocking a school shooting survivor for her ethnic identity?!" Brandon Wolf, one of the survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, commented. "When it was my community, where were you? When it was Sandy Hook? Columbine? Were you on the sideline mocking those communities too? Did you question someone identifying as a mother? Did you question whether people like me were crisis actors?"

"Emma stood for 6 minutes and 20 seconds to honor the lives of 17 gone too soon," Wolf added. "The least you could do is shut your privileged, ineffective trap for 6 seconds to hear someone else's perspective."

King's campaign team fired back on Facebook at the individual comments, igniting a heated exchange on the post.

"Pointing out the irony of someone wearing the flag of a communist country while simultaneously calling for gun control isn't 'picking' on anyone," King's campaign team responded. "It's calling attention to the truth, but we understand that lefties find that offensive."

As of Monday afternoon, the post is still up.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student and activist David Hogg asked Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio to reply to King's post.

"Hey @marcorubio, [Emma Gonzalez's] family fled Cuba to escape totalitarianism and live in freedom just like your family could you please respond to [Rep. Steve King]," Hogg tweeted.

The meme is one of several posts on King's page that have expressed criticism of the activism exhibited by the Parkland shooting survivors in their push for gun control.

The Republican congressman is one Congress's fiercest immigration critics, and he often voices this position in colorful language.

Last year, King praised Dutch nationalist politician Greet Wilders, writing on Twitter, Wilders "understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We have our civilization with somebody else's babies."

King's tweet echoes comments he made during the 2016 presidential election. During a panel discussion on MSNBC, King, who was a supporter of Donald Trump, defended the RNC's lack of diversity and suggested that white people had contributed more to civilization than any other "subgroup."

Earlier in 2016, the Des Moines Register reported that King kept a Confederate flag sitting on his desk.

"I don't agree with that, and I guess that's his decision," then-Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, told the Register. "People have a right to display whatever they want to. But I'm proud to say we're on the side of the Union. And we won the war."

Even before Trump reignited the torches of white supremacy and nationalism, King gained notoriety for his opposition to the DREAM Act, which provides legal status to young undocumented immigrants, commonly known as Dreamers, who were brought to the United States by their parents as children, when he described them as misshapen drug mules in an interview in 2013.

"For every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that they weigh 130 pounds and they've got the calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the dessert," he told Newsmax.

By Shira Tarlo

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