With the ground increasingly shrinking under Rep. Steve King’s feet, two major newspapers in his home state have offered simple but strongly worded advice for the Iowa Republican derided as a racist and embroiled in controversy:
Both the Sioux City Journal and the Des Moines Register cited a 29-word remark by King published in the New York Times last week that has earned him condemnation and resulted in Republican leaders stripping him of his committee assignments.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said to the Times. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
In the past, both Iowa newspapers have criticized King, with the Journal denouncing his “inflammatory or questionable comments.” Both endorsed his opponent in the general election, Democrat J.D. Scholten. But with King’s influence cauterized, the newspapers say he is not simply controversial but also ineffective.
“Whatever measure of influence or effectiveness King possessed in the House is, in our view, gone,” the Sioux City Journal’s editorial board wrote, noting that King’s recent reelection win — before he was stripped of committee assignments — was the narrowest of his career. “He is today, it appears to us, largely an outcast within the body in which he serves.”
“It’s time for Steve King to go,” concluded the newspaper from King’s district.
The Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest newspaper, said King had made the state a “laughingstock on the national stage” with his incendiary statements.
But worse than that, the Register said, Iowa’s farmers no longer have a seat at the table on “the vital House Agriculture Committee, as well as judiciary.”
King, it said, now has “far less opportunity to work for his constituents on critically important rural development issues.”
The newspapers add a home-state voice to the chorus calling for King to be punished or to step down on his own. The House is considering censure, and the Congressional Black Caucus has criticized Republicans who, it said, have offered only lip service in response to King’s remarks.
“If Republicans really believe these racist statements have no place in our government, then their party must offer more than shallow temporary statements of condemnation,” CBC said in a weekend tweet. “Instead they must actually condemn Mr. King by removing him from his committee assignments so that he can no longer affect policies that impact the very people he has made it clear that he disdains.”
Anything less from the GOP, the caucus said, is essentially “tacit acceptance of racism.”
On Monday, Rep. Bobby L. Rush, a black Democrat from Chicago, announced plans to introduce a resolution formally censuring King, saying the Iowa congressman’s comments “hark back to the dark days of American history.”
“He has become too comfortable with proudly insulting, disrespecting, and denigrating people of color,” Rush said. “As with any animal that is rabid, Steve King should be set aside and isolated. His rabid racism continues to stain and embarrass this body and the years of deliberate silence from Republicans have only emboldened his ignorant and immoral behavior and empowered those who emulate him.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who met with King on Monday, called the Iowa congressman’s words “beneath the dignity of the Party of Lincoln and the United States of America.”
A day later, the House approved a measure disapproving of King’s comments about white supremacy.
The vote was 424 to 1.
Rush was the lone nay, saying he wanted the House to take stronger action. Among the affirmatives: King himself.
Still, King has called McCarthy’s move to strip him of committee assignments “a political decision that ignores the truth.”
And, he said, he’s not going to resign.
In a statement, King vowed to “continue to point out the truth and work with all the vigor that I have to represent 4th District Iowans for at least the next two years.”
The Des Moines Register’s editorial board said it didn’t expect King to heed its admonition. The editorial was instead aimed at national GOP leaders and Republicans in King’s district.
“They should encourage him to step aside for the good of the Republican Party,” the editorial said, “and, more importantly, for the good of Iowa.”