Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) offered an unusual defense of the racial homogeneity of his party during a panel on MSNBC Monday evening.
The group, led by Chris Hayes, was discussing the first day of the Republican national convention and Donald Trump's history of racially-loaded comments and behavior. King told Hayes that he thought Trump had "modified" his behavior in that regard, but Esquire's Charlie Pierce said he didn't see much diversity reflected in the gathering itself.
"If you're really optimistic, you can say that this is the last time that old white people will command the Republican Party's attention, its platform, its public face," Pierce said. "That hall is wired," he continued. "That hall is wired by loud, unhappy, dissatisfied white people."
"This 'old white people' business does get a little tired, Charlie," King said. "I'd ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you're talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?"
"Than white people?" Hayes asked, clearly amazed.
"Than, than Western civilization itself," King replied. "It's rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That's all of Western civilization."
The other panelists objected, with Hayes trying to keep the peace. Panelist April Ryan, who is black, asked, "What about Asia? What about Africa?"
"We're not going to argue the history of Western civilization," Hayes said. "Let me note for the record that if you're looking at the ledger of Western civilization, for every flourishing democracy, you have Hitler and Stalin as well."
King was in the news most recently for including a Confederate flag among a cluster of pennants on the desk in his office, but his history of racially inflammatory comments extends back much further. In 2013, King was criticized by his peers after he insisted that for every immigrant in the country illegally who becomes a valedictorian, "there’s 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." Earlier this year, he pushed hard to block the addition of Harriet Tubman to the $20 bill.
In the wake of the murder of five police officers in Dallas, King accused the shooter of having been inspired by "anti-white/cop events illuminated by Obama."
During the primaries, King was a supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). During the MSNBC segment, King admitted that his support for Donald Trump was somewhat grudging.
For the record, there have been a great number of non-white contributions to human civilization. Civilization first arose in cities in Mesopotamia, in what is now Iraq and Syria. Arabic and Middle Eastern inventors and scientists brought astronomy to the world, which in turn aided innovations in navigation. Critical innovations in mathematics and architecture originated in the same area. The Chinese contributed philosophical precepts and early monetary systems, among other things. The specific inventions that were created outside of the Western world are too many to list: the seismograph, the umbrella, gunpowder, stirrups, the compass.
Oh, and, of course, the non-Western world gave us the numeric system that will be used to tally up the delegates to make Trump the nominee of King's party.