Iowa Rep. Steve King says he has "nothing to apologize for" in wake of racist comments

King confirmed he would run for a 10th term, despite controversies surrounding his long history of racist comments

By Shira Tarlo
Published February 22, 2019 6:01PM (EST)
Steve King (Getty/Alex Wong)
Steve King (Getty/Alex Wong)

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) confirmed Thursday that he will run for a 10th term, despite controversies over his long history of making comments that suggest empathy toward white nationalism and other racist points-of-view.

The Iowa Republican has faced fierce backlash from national and state leaders of his own party, has been stripped of his committee position assignments in Congress and has already drawn three challengers for the 2020 Republican nomination.

In a Thursday taping of Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program, host David Yepsen asked King if he was sorry for anything he has said. "I have nothing to apologize for, Dave," King replied.

King, however, issued a message to voters in his district: "Don't let the elitists in this country, the power brokers in this country, tell you who's going to represent you in the United States Congress."

King came under intense scrutiny from lawmakers of all political stripes in January for remarks he made in defense of white supremacy in a New York Times profile. He asked the newspaper, "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 did not deny making the comments to the Times, although he insisted in a follow-up interview that he rejects both of those mindsets.

After the story was published 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 added of "white nationalist" and "white supremacy" terminology: "I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I reject those labels and the evil ideology they define."

On Thursday's IPTV broadcast, King characterized the New York Times passage as a "misquote." As he previously claimed, King insisted he was talking about Western civilization – not white supremacy. King also blamed the "misquote" on the media, specifically the New York Times and the Washington Post, which he accused of twisting his words and "weaponizing" the language.

"If you would just hold these publications to what is true, there is no story whatsoever," he said. ". . . There's no part of me that believes in anything that's advocated by folks that identify themselves as white nationalists or white supremacy."

Yepsen then challenged King on his claim that the quote attributed to him by New York Times political reporter Trip Gabriel was incorrect.

"He's known as a pretty good reporter," Yepsen told King. ". . . That's one of the reasons why this has had such momentum on it."

"He can say he's a respected reporter — and I think he's a personable fella — that's probably part of the reason why we had a 56-minute conversation," King replied. But he suggested that because Gabriel was never asked to produce a recording or transcript of the interview, the correct quote would never materialize.

New York Times Politics Editor Patrick Healy said later Thursday that the newspaper stands behind its story.

"Trip Gabriel typed detailed notes during the interview, and we are absolutely confident that we quoted Mr. King accurately, fairly and in the proper context," Healy wrote in an email to the Des Moines Register. "I'd point out that for more than 24 hours after the article was published, Mr. King did not dispute he had made the comment."

Shira Tarlo

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