Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), fresh off an “our civilization” can't be restored with “somebody else's babies” controversy, just made an equally eyebrow-raising statement on CNN on Monday morning as he tried to defend it: “It's not about race. It's never been about race.”
The audacious thing about that statement is that for King, someone prone to saying things about people, their skin colors and cultures that make the Republican Party's establishment cringe, it's often ALL about race.
Looking at his comments holistically, King's worldview can be summed up thusly: White people are superior to other people.
King doesn't say it that bluntly, but he comes close, often substituting “Western civilization” or “culture” for white people.
- In his CNN interview, King didn't back down from his tweet about “someone else's babies,” telling host Chris Cuomo: “I meant exactly what I said.” His tweet, and its broader message, have now been taken up by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
- In that same interview, King never directly said he agrees with Cuomo that a Muslim American and, say, an Irish American are equal. Instead, King said he's a “champion for Western civilization,” telling Cuomo: “It's a clash of cultures, not of race.”
- On the first day of the Republican National Convention in July, King wondered on an MSNBC panel what “sub groups” contribute to civilization: “This 'old white people' business does get a little tired, Charlie,” King said to Chris Hayes. “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 idea that every culture is equal is not objectively true,” King told The Washington Post's Philip Rucker in an interview at the Republican National Convention.
- After the July killing of five police officers in Dallas guarding protests of police shootings of black people, King accused the shooter of having been inspired by “anti-white/cop events illuminated by [President Barack] Obama.”
- A month earlier, King tried to push a vote to block Harriet Tubman from being on the $20 bill, telling Politico: “This is a divisive proposal on the part of the president, and mine's unifying. It says just don't change anything.”
- Also in July, the Des Moines Register reported King had displayed a Confederate flag on his office desk, despite the fact that Iowa was in the Union.
- In 2013, King said most immigrants were “drug mules.” He added that for every immigrant 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.”
- In 2010, King said Obama's policies “favor the black person.”
- In 2008, King questioned how a president with the middle name Hussein would play in the fight against terrorism.
So for King to say his worldview is “not about race” is disingenuous at best. And as much as the traditional guards of the Republican Party may not like it, King's race-oriented worldview has been elevated over the past year or so. King was once on the fringes of the party, but as I wrote in July when King made his “sub groups” comment, not anymore:
It's all too easy to connect the dots between him and the person Republicans are on the verge of nominating as their presidential nominee. King said in 2010 that racial profiling is an important law enforcement tool; Trump endorsed broad racial profiling after the Orlando attack, calling it “common sense.” In 2008, King questioned how a president with the middle name Hussein would play in the war on terror; after Orlando, Trump questioned the president's commitment to fighting terrorists by seemingly suggesting his loyalties could be compromised.
For all the ways in which Trump has made life difficult for his party, this might be among the most stressful. The party has long tried to strike a tough balance between its professed belief in colorblindness and its need to make inroads with the minority voters it will need as the country grows less white. Of late, that has become significantly more difficult as his candidacy elevates politicians like King, who sometimes seem to have more in common with Trump than the rest of the party.
King's influence on the Republican Party and American culture writ large is something to be debated. But whether King's comments are about race is not up for debate.