As anyone with a Twitter account or television has probably seen by now, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is being widely repudiated for declaring Sunday that “our civilization” cannot be restored “with somebody else's babies.”
As with many of King's most incendiary statements, the tweet was widely interpreted to be about white superiority — and was condemned by critics from both sides of the aisle.
He defended his comments on CNN the following morning, saying it was “not about race” but “Western civilization.”
The Des Moines Register has since delivered a scathing rebuke of not only King's statement but his long history of spouting “things that are untrue, offensive or wildly irresponsible.” In taking on the state's highest-profile political figure, the Register also slammed the Republican Party for enabling him.
Under any other circumstances, King simply would be “your average, garden-variety bigot … standing on a street corner while spouting his nonsense to passersby” and thus easy to ignore, wrote the editorial board of the state's largest newspaper.
However, King is a federal lawmaker and a representative for the people of Iowa.
“King’s words are predictable, but they carry weight only because he is a congressman,” the editorial board wrote. “And he’s a congressman because, after Republican Party leaders repeatedly denounce his words in an attempt to claim the moral high ground, they then wallow in the mud by supporting King’s bids for re-election.”
(How predictable are King's words at this point? Online, the Register also published a video with the editorial titled “A history of Steve King's controversial moments.")
The Register's editorial board called out a number of Republicans who had endorsed King in the 2016 primary election, including Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Reynolds, our governor-in-waiting, endorsed King in the 2016 primary, calling him an “effective advocate for his district and for Iowans.” King also was endorsed by Sen. Joni Ernst, who said King “stands strong for life and liberty.” Sen. Charles E. Grassley and Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey also endorsed King in 2016.
Some of those same Republican politicians have since condemned King's words.
Reynolds said they did not reflect “Iowa values.”
Republican Rep. David Young spoke out in a pair of tweets, stating “America is not about any one color, or one ethnicity, or one faith” but rather “self-government, the rule of law, freedom, and the liberties and rights given in our Constitution.”
And Jeff Kaufmann, the Iowa GOP chairman, said in a statement that he disagreed with King's comments.
“We are a nation of immigrants, and diversity is the strength of any nation and any community,” Kaufmann wrote.
He had harsher words in the same statement for onetime KKK leader David Duke, who had celebrated King's tweet.
“Regarding David Duke, his words and sentiments are absolute garbage,” Kaufmann wrote. “He is not welcome in our wonderful state.”
Still, this was not enough, the Register's editorial board wrote.
If the GOP truly wanted to repudiate King's views, it wrote, then the party's leaders would need to move beyond words and support a replacement candidate for King in the 2018 Republican primary.
The editorial ended on a withering note.
“Given King’s long-standing record as one of the least effective members of Congress, the GOP should have no difficulty finding a more thoughtful and qualified individual to represent the people of Iowa’s 4th District,” the editorial read.
“The only question is whether these party leaders have the courage of their alleged convictions.”
The state's largest newspaper has long criticized King for his incendiary rhetoric. His latest tweet, however, attracted national attention (again), partly because — as The Washington Post's Amber Phillips reported last July — the congressman has moved from the fringe of the GOP to a more prominent position.
Before Trump, Phillips wrote then, “the Republican establishment was able to minimize or brush off controversial remarks like the ones King regularly makes. That's getting more difficult to do when their own presidential nominee sometimes seems more aligned with the Steve Kings of the world.”
That has not stopped King's longtime opponents from fighting him.
Iowa Democrats have called on him to be censured and to resign after his latest statements. Critics across the country have demanded the same.
One Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), simply tweeted a picture of his two sons at King to make his argument.
If King was fazed by any of this criticism, he certainly didn't show it. The lawmaker doubled (tripled?) down on his rhetoric ahead of an appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”