Republican lawmakers spent much of this month chastising Democrats for not sufficiently punishing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who was accused of making anti-Semitic comments. Democrats condemned her language and passed a measure broadly opposing hate, but Republicans wanted them to go much further.
After all, they argued, when Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) asked why the term “white supremacy” was problematic in a New York Times interview in January, GOP leaders stripped him of his committee assignments.
This week, two actions by King show that the reprimand he received — which came after years of controversial comments — has not changed how he talks about race and other identity issues.
Earlier this week, a meme was shared on King’s Facebook page that showed a collection of blue states fighting a collection of red states. It seemed to encourage civil war and also take a swipe at transgender rights. “Folks keep talking about another civil war,” it read. “One side has about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use.”
The post quickly drew attention. As The Washington Post’s Reis Thebault wrote, “the implication was incendiary: King was openly pondering violent, armed conflict, apparently joking about Republican-leaning states fighting their Democratic-leaning neighbors in a second American civil war.”
King later deleted the post and said he had not personally posted it.
On Tuesday, King was asked during a town hall in Algona, Iowa, about his views on white supremacy. The question came days after 50 people were fatally shot at two New Zealand mosques by an admitted gunman who wrote a manifesto praising President Trump and far-right nationalism.
Mary Lavelle, 63, asked King: “Do you think a white society is superior to a nonwhite society?”
“I don’t have an answer for that,” King replied. “That’s so hypothetical.”
“I’ll say this, America is not a white society,” he went on. “It’s never been a completely white society. We came here and joined the Native Americans, who were here in many times numbers greater than ours.”
King later added: “I’ve long said that a baby can be lifted out of a cradle anywhere in the world and brought into any home in America, whatever the color of the folks in that household, and they can be raised to be American as any other.”
King’s comments on assimilation, which suggest that immigrants need to “be raised to be American as any other,” are not new. He has repeatedly appealed to the white identity politics and peddled a Eurocentric idea of Americanism and denounced immigrants, primarily Latinos, for failing to meet this standard. In 2017, he garnered headlines when he tweeted: “Assimilation has become a dirty word to the multiculturalist Left. Assimilation, not diversity, is our American strength.”
So far, no Republicans have weighed in on King’s refusal to unequivocally state that a white society is not superior to a nonwhite society. None have condemned him for encouraging violence with his suggestion of civil war. It’s why the GOP’s outrage over Omar’s comments rings hollow. If the GOP is truly concerned about getting rid of overt bigotry on Capitol Hill, they would start with their own party.