On Sunday, King let slip who, in his portrayal, the reviled queen rat might be — someone who, in the writer’s words, he has “personal reasons” for disliking.
The short story is set in Maine, but King briefly turned his attention to Iowa, where one of the president’s congressional acolytes is facing his first credible challenger in years. The best-selling author and deep-pocketed Democratic donor asked Iowa residents to vote against Republican Rep. Steve King (R) because, the King of fright said, “I’m tired of being confused with this racist dumbbell.”
The King of Congress might well relish the author’s disparagement. On Saturday, the Republican responded to an onslaught of criticism fueling a fundraising blitz by his Democratic opponent — first-time candidate J.D. Scholten — by taking aim at “Left Coast billionaires." The portmanteau of sorts blended two of King’s most common slights, left wing and East Coast.
A wave of criticism has buffeted the eight-term congressman in recent days.
Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Republican campaign arm, last week assailed King on Twitter for “white supremacy and hate." Another Republican, Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, said on MSNBC that he would never vote for “someone like Steve King,” even if it meant forfeiting control of the House, calling his colleague’s statements and actions “disgusting.”
Intel, AT&T, Purina and Land O’Lakes pulled financial support. Meanwhile, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, called on House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to censure King for statements and affiliations “that are anti-Semitic and offensive not just to the Jewish community, but to all Americans.” The Republican leader has not done so.
The backlash stems from King’s record of racially incendiary rhetoric and his association with figures, in the United States and abroad, with Nazi ties. He took to Twitter last year to declare his support for ethnic nationalism, writing, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” His party didn’t rebuke him in June when he retweeted a message from a self-described “Nazi sympathizer.” Last month, he voiced support for Faith Goldy, an unsuccessful Toronto mayoral candidate who has promoted the baseless notion that a “white genocide” is underway. And last week, reports surfaced that King had met in August with members of an Austrian political party founded by former Nazis, during a trip funded by a group that promotes awareness of the Holocaust.
At a town hall last week, King erupted when an attendee asked him whether his hard-line views on race and identity bore resemblance to those of the Robert Bowers, the man accused of gunning down 11 congregants at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
“You’re done. You crossed the line. It’s not tolerable to accuse me to be associated with a guy that shot 11 people in Pittsburgh,” King said. “This is over, if you don’t stop talking.”
It remains to be seen whether the controversy that has engulfed the right-wing congressman will alter his fate on Tuesday. Despite one poll last week, by a Democratic firm, finding that King had only a one-point lead over his upstart opponent, most surveys show a more comfortable gap between him and Scholten, a former minor league pitcher and paralegal.
The two sparred on Twitter all weekend.
Scholten retweeted the novelist’s appeal to Iowa voters. But the name-calling was hardly reserved for the Hawkeye State Republican. King, the author, reached back into his 1982 short story “The Raft” — or perhaps another tale of horror at sea — to find an insult for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. “Crawdad,” he called him.