Steve King complains of "white supremacist" censorship: "How did that language become offensive?"

The controversial Iowa congressman defended the term "white nationalist" in a recent interview with New York Times

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published January 10, 2019 1:23PM (EST)

Steve King (AP/Charlie Neibergall)
Steve King (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, just admitted in an interview that he doesn't see why people make such a big deal out of the terms "white nationalist" and "white supremacist."

"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?" King asked during an interview with The New York Times that was published on Thursday.

The same article reviewed the number of controversies that have emerged about Rep. King during his career as a member of the House of Representatives, which began when he was elected in 2002.

But at the same time, Mr. King’s margin of victory in 2018 shrank to its narrowest in 16 years. He made national headlines for endorsing a Toronto mayoral candidate with neo-Nazi ties and for meeting with a far-right Austrian party accused of trivializing the Holocaust. On Twitter, he follows an Australian anti-Semitic activist, who proposed hanging a portrait of Hitler “in every classroom.” And in October, the chairman of the Republican House elections committee, Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, condemned Mr. King, saying, “We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms.”

King also had a Confederate flag in his congressional office until recently, a fact not even justifiable on the already-tenuous grounds of regional loyalty (Iowa fought for the Union during the Civil War).

"Congressman Steve King's recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate. We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior," Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, said in October after King endorsed a white nationalist running for mayor of Toronto and told an Austrian publication that white Europeans are a superior race and that a "Great Replacement" of whites with non-whites is occurring.

The Sioux City Journal, a major newspaper in King's Iowa district, also made the bold choice not to endorse his reelection campaign in 2018, writing that King "holds up this district to ridicule and marginalizes himself within the legislative body he serves, neither of which provides benefit to Iowans who live and work here." It cited, among other examples, King's "tweet in support of a candidate for mayor of Toronto described in published reports as a 'white nationalist' or 'white supremacist.' That wasn't the first time King was tied, by his words or actions, to such intolerant ugliness."

King's racist views did lose him the support of major corporate sponsors like Purina and Land O'Lakes, and although he did win his reelection campaign in 2018, the margin by which he defeated Democratic rival J.D. Scholten was much more narrow than previous races in which King has run in that district.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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