The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A GOP congressman retweeted a self-described ‘Nazi sympathizer.’ His party did not rebuke him.

U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) speaks in Des Moines in 2014. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
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Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa is drawing scrutiny after sharing a social media post from a British white nationalist who has described himself in the past as an admirer of Hitler’s Germany and a “Nazi sympathizer.”

King, whose racially inflected comments on subjects such as immigration and Western culture have drawn headlines for years, retweeted the British white nationalist Mark Collett, who had shared a statistic from Breitbart News on Tuesday morning about opinions of “mass immigration” in Italy.

“Europe is waking up,” King wrote, above Collett’s tweet. “Will America … in time?”

King’s retweet drew outcry from liberal commentators and websites for its substance, as well as the relative silence of his Republican colleagues in the House. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who has rebuked King in the past, did not immediately return a request for comment sent to his office.

The Republican Party has found itself with a resurgent and increasingly visible extremist wing, empowered in part by Donald Trump’s election on a spate of racially charged policies and rhetoric. In Virginia, Corey Stewart, who has championed the Confederate flag and called a Republican congressional hopeful known for tweeting racist and anti-Semitic statements a “personal hero,” will be the party’s nominee to challenge Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine after winning its primary this week. And other candidates with ethnically charged viewpoints have sought the party nomination in races elsewhere.

“Extremely concerning that a sitting Member of Congress felt it appropriate to RT a known anti-Semite & someone associated w/ neo-Nazis,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement posted to social media. “A disappointing continuation of Rep. King’s propensity to engage in inflammatory, bigoted rhetoric on & off Twitter.”

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Collett, who has found some prominence in the small but digitally prominent community of racially charged nationalists that has grown more visible in Europe and the United States in recent years, has made waves in Britain since the early 2000s.

As the 21-year-old leader of the young wing of Britain’s far-right British National Party in 2002, Collett was a main subject of the television documentary “Young, Nazi and Proud,” in which documentarian David Modell surreptitiously recorded him expressing admiration for Germany under Hitler’s rule and criticizing the presence of Jewish people in Europe.

“National socialism was the best solution for German people back in the 1930s,” he said. “When people say, ‘Do you take any inspiration from that?’ I mean I honestly can’t understand how a man who’s seen the inner-city hell of Britain today can’t look back on that era with a certain nostalgia and think, ‘Yeah, those people marching through the streets and all those happy people out in the streets, you know saluting and everything, was a bad thing.’ ”

After being questioned by Modell at the end of the documentary about the views he had so freely expressed when he didn’t think he was on camera, Collett denied them, before Modell told him of the footage.

“I’m not a Nazi, but if you want to call me a Nazi sympathizer you can,” Collett told Modell.

Collett was reportedly ejected from the BNP in 2010 after he was arrested on the suspicion of making threats to kill its leader amid intraparty turmoil.

In recent years, he has found an audience in far-right and white supremacist circles on the Internet as a self-identified member of the alt-right, the virulent movement known for its racist, anti-Semitic and sexist points of view, expressing his views on Twitter, YouTube and other digital channels. And Collett has found common cause with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who has appeared on his YouTube show and given a blurb for a book written by Collett.

In 2016, the organizers of the Brexit push Vote Leave asked Collett to stop campaigning with their materials after he was photographed at an official-looking table handing out leaflets with his swastika-tattooed girlfriend, according to the BBC.

King, who did not return a request for comment sent to his congressional office, has found himself spotlighted for racially charged statements for years.

Last March, he wrote that the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders “understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” drawing outcry and even some rebukes, however tepid, from his party. In 2013, he told a publication that for every immigrant in the country illegally who becomes valedictorian, there are “another 100 out there that — they weigh 130 pounds, and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

And he has been called out for having a Confederate flag on his desk, a fact that has left many observers scratching their heads: Iowa was a Union state.

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