Generally, a politician is headed for trouble when he starts a thought on local radio by saying, "Slavery was abhorrent, but..."
Most politicians have figured out that nothing that comes after that "but" belongs anywhere near the first part of the sentence. Not Rep. Steve King.
King, an Iowa Republican, was the lone member of the House to oppose a resolution to acknowledge the role of slave labor in the construction of the Capitol with a plaque in the Capitol Visitors Center. The GOP representative went on local Iowa radio to explain his decision.
It's all about balance, he said during the radio interview.
"And of the 645,000 Africans that were brought here to be forcibly put into slavery in the United States, there were over 600,000 people that gave their lives in the Civil War to put an end to slavery. And I don't see the monument to that in the Congressional Visitor Center, and I think it's important that we have a balanced depiction of history," he offered in a clip picked up by Think Progress. "Slavery was abhorrent, but it was also a fact of life in those centuries where it existed."
Incidentally, the number 645,000 does not include the millions who were born into slavery. But it's also not the explanation he provided to the Huffington Post previously. On Wednesday, King told HuffPost that his no vote was about honoring the nation's Christian heritage. And besides, he said, there was already a Capitol memorial to slavery.
"In the Capitol Visitor's Center, we agreed to change the name of the Great Hall -- which honored the immigrants that came legally to America -- to Emancipation Hall to honor the 645,000 slaves and their descendants who were brought to the United States more than two centuries ago," he said in a statement issued later. (The slaves were also brought "legally" to the United States.)
"Last night, I opposed yet another bill to erect another monument to slavery because it was used as a bargaining chip to allow for the actual depiction of 'In God We Trust' in the CVC," the statement continued. "The Architect of the Capitol and liberal activists opposed every reference to America's Christian heritage, even to the extent of scrubbing 'In God We Trust' from the depiction of the actual Speaker's chair in the U.S. House of Representatives."
As Think Progress points out, the argument over balance misses the idea that slave labor is being acknowledged for its specific role in building the Capitol, which is why it's being done in the visitors center. And the blog further notes that there is hardly a shortage of memorials to those who died in the Civil War. In fact, there's a book about them all.
A new statement from King wasn't immediately available, but we'll add it when it arrives.