(ABC News)

Liz Cheney tells Steve King to "find another line of work" in wake of congressman's racist interview

"His language questioning whether or not the notion of white supremacy is offensive – is absolutely abhorrent"


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Shira Tarlo
January 15, 2019 8:45PM (UTC)

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) should look for a different job, according to House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney.

"I agree with Leader McConnell, actually. I think he should find another line of work," Cheney told reporters Tuesday at a press conference, echoing comments made the prior day by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).  "I think that we've been very clear. I think it was [a] very significant and serious step to remove him from committees. And I think that you've seen [this] now repeated. This wasn't the first time."

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"His language questioning whether or not the notion of white supremacy is offensive – is absolutely abhorrent," the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives added. "It's racist. We do not support it or agree with it. And, as I said, I think he should find another line of work."

Cheney's comments come after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and other House Republicans voted to revoke King from his committee assignments as punishment for his racist remarks. King on Monday called McCarthy's decision to remove him from committees "a political decision that ignores the truth."

"That language has no place in America. That is not the America that I know. And it’s most definitely not the party of Lincoln," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. He later added, "Action will be taken. I’m having a serious conversation with Congressman Steve King on his future and role in this Republican Party."

The backlash against King was prompted by a controversial interview the congressman gave last week to The New York Times, in which he said that he did not see a problem with the use 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 said, according to the newspaper.

After the story was published Thursday by the Times, the newspaper said King issued a statement, in which he described himself as a "nationalist" and supporter of "Western civilization's values." However, he argued on Monday that he was only referring to Western civilization – not "any previously stated evil ideology." He also indicated that he plans to continue representing Iowa's 4th Congressional District for the remainder of his two-year term. The Iowa congressman withstood a competitive bid for re-election against Democratic rival J.D. Scholten in the Hawkeye State during the 2018 midterm election cycle.

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It is unclear why King's latest round of overt racist comments were the ones that — finally — hurt him among the Republican Party establishment, as the Iowa congressman has a long history of making comments that suggest empathy toward white nationalism and other racist points of view.

Regarding immigration, King characterized some children brought into the U.S. illegally as drug mules with "calves the size of cantaloupes, because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert" in 2013.

Before Election Day last year, King made a homophobic joke that the two women Supreme Court judges appointed by former President Barack Obama — Associate Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — should elope to Cuba. He also attacked the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) for backing an LGBTQ candidate. "They sent money over to support a candidate in a primary in California who had a same-sex partner that they put all over glossy mailers . . That's hard to write a check to those guys when they do that," he told an audience.

He has previously endorsed a white nationalist running for mayor of Toronto and argued that non-whites are superior to whites. He also attracted negative attention during the 2016 election for expressing support for far-right politicians such as Hungary's far-right prime minister Victor Orbán — an outspoken white nationalist who has argued for a ban of non-white immigration to his country — and the Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

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King also retweeted a statement from well-known British Nazi sympathizer Mark Collett, who was a subject in the 2002 documentary, "Young, Nazi and Proud." King defended this move by claiming to not know of Collett’s affiliations. He refused to apologize for the tweet and stood by the sentiment of the comment, which falls in line with his hardline views on immigration and american nationalist ideas.

King also displays a Confederate flag on his congressional desk — a decision that cannot be attributed to supporting his state's history, since Iowa fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War — and has also attempted to block the addition of Harriet Tubman to the $20 bill. He has previously argued that he is not worried about non-whites outnumbering whites, because "I will predict that Hispanics and the blacks will be fighting each other before that happens." He insisted just last year that "we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies," making clear that he opposes all immigration — not just people who cross the border illegally.

He also claimed that only white people had made meaningful contributions to human civilization. King's comments have received glowing praise from far-right activists, including from neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, who called the congressman a "hero" and described him as "basically an open white nationalist at this point."

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Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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