The final moments of Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s interview on MSNBC might not have been so jarring if he had not spent the preceding 10 minutes talking about the need for Republicans and Democrats to communicate better about the partial government shutdown and the fraught issue of immigration.
“We’re just not talking to each other and using the right language to say, ‘We all mean well,’ " he told MSNBC’s Katy Tur on Tuesday. “Democrats mean well; Republicans mean well. Let’s just get our well-meaningness together and do something.”
The Illinois Republican’s tone earlier in the conversation called for even more civility: “We have to look at all immigrants as human beings made in God’s image. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a right to defend our territorial borders and set a policy for legal immigration.”
But then, with 20 seconds to go before Tur switched subjects, Kinzinger joined a small fraternity of prominent conservatives who have used dehumanizing metaphors for immigrants.
“When Nancy Pelosi says a wall is immoral, [Republicans] look at that and go, ‘How is a wall immoral?’ ” he said. “Look, I have four walls around my house and they keep bad people out and critters out.”
Kinzinger’s words were reminiscent of a statement by Donald Trump Jr. earlier this month, shortly after his father directly appealed to the American public for more border wall funding.
“You know why you can enjoy a day at the zoo?” Trump asked his Instagram followers in a post that was ultimately deleted. “Because walls work.”
The younger Trump has a history of incendiary statements. He once compared Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles that had been poisoned. And last year he tweeted a misleading headline claiming that nearly 200,000 Florida voters might be noncitizens.
For his part, Kinzinger vehemently disputed the negative characterization of his comments, saying his words were being taken out of context.
The Illinois Republican has been trying to paint himself as a peacemaker of sorts.
The latest news release on his congressional website Wednesday was titled: “Kinzinger calls for ‘civility now’ in weekend op-ed."
It referred to his call for “an across the board toning down of the rhetoric used in political debates and disagreements.”
“To solve our rhetoric issue, we need to tone it down," he wrote in the Rockford Register Star. “We must demand more from our leaders, and ourselves. Our political, religious, and community leaders need to act more responsibly (myself included), and we each need to use our words to demand better from them.”