Major Iowa newspaper calls for Rep. Steve King to resign over racist comments about white supremacy

"King should resign. . . because of his abhorrent comments about white nationalism and white supremacy"

Published January 16, 2019 11:01AM (EST)

Rep. Steve King (Getty/Drew Angerer)
Rep. Steve King (Getty/Drew Angerer)

A major newspaper in Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) home state has called for the congressman to resign hours after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to condemn white supremacy — a condemnation of King himself.

"Congressman Steve King should resign," begins the Des Moines Register's editorial, which was published late Tuesday afternoon. "He has lost even the potential to effectively represent his Iowa constituents because of his abhorrent comments about white nationalism and white supremacy."

The newspaper's condemnation of King comes amid the fallout from the Iowa congressman's interview with The New York Times last week, in which he revealed that he did not see a problem with the use of the terms "white nationalist" or "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.

The editorial board of the Des Moines Register, which is the newspaper with the largest circulation in Iowa, called King's remark to the Times a "career-ending quote" and denounced him for making "Iowa a laughing stock on the national stage with his offensive and absurd remarks about undocumented immigrants, comparing them to dogs or disparaging them as drug mules with calves the size of cantaloupes." (King, in 2013, 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.")

The board also noted that King likely would not take its advice to resign, and insisted that he listen to his Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill.

"We don't expect King to listen to us. But maybe he would listen to [Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst and Gov. Kim Reynolds] and Republicans in his district," the board wrote. "They should encourage him to step aside for the good of the Republican Party and, more importantly, for the good of Iowa."

During the 2018 midterm election cycle, the Des Moines Register editorial board endorsed King's Democratic challenger, J.D. Scholten, over the incumbent congressman himself because "in his almost 16 years in Congress, King has passed exactly one bill as primary sponsor, redesignating a post office. He won't debate his opponent and rarely holds public town halls. Instead, he spends his time meeting with fascist leaders in Europe and retweeting neo-Nazis." Indeed, King's overt racism made his 2018 re-election campaign against Scholten much tighter than it might have otherwise been expected in a traditionally-red district. Still, the Iowa congressman managed to withstand a competitive bid for re-election in Iowa's 4th Congressional District.

It is unclear why the backlash following King's interview with the Times, which was published last Thursday, prompted House Republicans leaders to finally reach their breaking point and rebuke King, after years of tolerating the Iowa representative's blatant racism and comments that suggest empathy towards white nationalism. In response to the Times' story, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday called King "unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position." Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, called on King to step down on Tuesday.

In the wake of the racist remarks made by King, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other House Republicans voted to revoke King's committee assignments as punishment. King called McCarthy's decision to remove him from committees "a political decision that ignores the truth." The following day, the House overwhelmingly voted to pass House Resolution 41 — a formal condemnation of white nationalism and white supremacy introduced by Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.). Even King voted in favor of the resolution, saying, "I agree with the language in it."

"I want to ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, let's vote for this resolution," King said on the House floor. "I'm putting up a 'yes' on the board here, because what you say here is right and is true and is just. And so is what I have stated here on the floor of the House."

By Shira Tarlo

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