Steve King's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Tuesday

Caitlin Dickson
·Reporter
Steve King
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. (Photo: Justin Hayworth/AP)

After 16 years of tolerating his outrageous and offensive comments, it appears that the Republican Party has finally reached its limit with Iowa Rep. Steve King.

Just one week before the midterm elections, Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, the campaign chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, tweeted: “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.”

King, who has built a reputation in Washington for racially charged comments about immigrants, was among the first Republican candidates to quickly embrace President Trump’s fear mongering about the migrant caravan making its way to the U.S. from Honduras. However, he has drawn scrutiny over the past several months for his endorsements of political figures and viewpoints associated with the white nationalist movement.

This month he tweeted his support for the Toronto mayoral campaign of a white nationalist candidate named Faith Goldy, who finished third in the election last week with under 4 percent of the vote. Also last week, it was reported that King met with members of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, which was founded by a former Nazi SS officer and is currently led by a politician who was previously active in the neo-Nazi movement. King was on a trip to Europe sponsored by a nonprofit that aims to educate lawmakers about the Holocaust.

In an interview with a website associated with the party, which began to circulate online in September, King bemoaned the decline of Western civilization, questioned the value of diversity in the U.S., and criticized George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who is a frequent object of far-right, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and was among the targets of a recent spate of attempted pipe bombings. Earlier this month, King tweeted in support of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s conspiratorial attacks on Soros.

Steve Stivers
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

King’s increasingly inflammatory rhetoric — which, until now, has prompted little response from Republican leaders — is attracting negative attention in the wake of a mass shooting that left 11 people dead at a synagogue in Pittsburgh this past Saturday.

In an attempt to refute accusations of anti-Semitism following Saturday’s synagogue shooting, King defended his association with groups like the Freedom Party, which has adopted a hardline anti-immigration stance amid efforts to distance itself from its historic Nazi ties.

“If they were in America pushing the platform that they push, they would be Republicans,” he said. That might not be the message the national Republican Party wants to get out just before the election.

While many of his supporters in Iowa’s heavily Republican Fourth Congressional District reportedly remained unfazed by the congressman’s controversial comments and ties to such groups, polls show King’s lead over Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten is rapidly disappearing. A poll published this week by the left-leaning firm Change Research, found King just one percentage point ahead of Scholten, a former minor league baseball player who has significantly out-raised the longstanding incumbent throughout the campaign.

Last week, King lost the support of local Iowa newspaper, the Sioux City Journal, whose editorial board endorsed Scholten after previously backing King in eight congressional elections. “We would prefer King spend less time trying to ‘save’ Western civilization and making a national name for himself as a conservative leader trying to move the nation to the political right,” they wrote. “We would rather he commit to becoming, say, a more influential congressional leader in agriculture.”

J.D. Scholten, Iowa’s Democratic candidate for Congress. (Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
J.D. Scholten, Iowa’s Democratic candidate for Congress. (Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In light of the latest polling numbers, and the fact that King, who has yet to air a campaign ad, does not seem to be mounting much of a defense against his well-funded opponent, the Cook Political Report announced Tuesday it was changing its rating for the King-Scholten race from “likely Republican” to “Lean Republican.” It’s the second time Cook has shifted its rating in this race, which it originally projected as “Solid Republican.”

In a statement to Yahoo News Tuesday, Scholten’s campaign manager Irene Lin criticized King for “failing to show up to committee hearings” suggesting that “he’s been more concerned about supporting a white nationalist for Toronto mayor and flying to Austria again for the fifth time in six years than he is in meeting his own constituents.”

In the wake of perhaps the deadliest attack on American Jews in U.S. history, King’s comments and connections have also become a problem for his already-diminished pool of donors. Under threat of a boycott from consumers, Land-O-Lakes announced Tuesday that its political action committee would no longer provide financial support to King. A few hours later, Purina PetCare followed suit.

It was perhaps this culmination of factors that ultimately led Stivers to issue his rather stunning rebuke of King on Tuesday afternoon. Just two days earlier, Stivers had defended Republicans’ ongoing demonization of Soros in campaign ads even after the attempted pipe bomb attacks.

NRCC communications director Matt Gorman elaborated on Stivers’s tweet in an interview with Fox News Tuesday, stating that the group would no longer support King’s candidacy. Meanwhile, Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has remained silent on King’s behavior.

In response to a request for comment Tuesday, a spokesman for King referred Yahoo News to a statement posted to his Twitter feed.

“Americans, all created equal by God, with all our races, ethnicities, and national origins-legal immigrants & natural born citizens, together make up the Shining City on the Hill,” read King’s statement. “These attacks are orchestrated by nasty, desperate, and dishonest fake news. Their ultimate goal is to flip the House and impeach Donald Trump. Establishment Never Trumpers are complicit.”

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