Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) issued a defiant statement Monday night after House Republican leadership decided to strip King of his committee assignments following the release of an interview where the congressman questioned why terms like “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” were “offensive.”
King characterized the move as an “unprecedented assault on my freedom of speech,” and it makes sense that he would be somewhat mystified. For the better part of this decade, King has openly broadcast his racist and xenophobic views without consequence from the Republican leaders.
In September of last year, King met in Austria with members of a political party founded by a former Nazi SS officer and declared that “western civilization is on the decline” because minorities are supposedly replacing white Europeans.
In October, King endorsed a white nationalist to be mayor of Toronto. The candidate had previously participated in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and had recommended a book that called for the “elimination of Jews.”
And in November, The Weekly Standard published an audio recording of King referring to immigrants as “dirt” on multiple occasions. The report prompted 140 organizations to sign a letter to then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to censure King for his “anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, racist” language.
Just to be clear, King’s rhetoric cannot be attributed to the rise of Trumpism, it goes back to well before Donald Trump’s entry into the 2016 presidential campaign. In August of 2013, King absurdly claimed that for every child of an illegal immigrant “who is valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds, and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
Throughout all of these episodes, congressional Republican leaders did nothing and continued to allow King to serve on the House Judiciary Committee, the committee that’s responsible for immigration policy in America. So it’s been interesting watching Republicans, after all this time, pile on the anti-King bandwagon this week.
This week, Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called on King to “step aside” and for Congress to “make it very clear he has no place there.” This was eight years after King ignorantly proclaimed that former President Barack Obama had a “default mechanism in him that breaks down the side of race – on the side that favors the black person.” Mind you, in 2012, Romney told an Iowa crowd that King “needs to be your congressman again. I want him as my partner in Washington!”
I wonder, does Leader McConnell’s sentiments extend to Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith?
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released a strongly-worded statement declaring, “there is no place in the Republican Party, the Congress or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy of any kind…Rep. King’s statements are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position.” I wonder, does Leader McConnell’s sentiments extend to Republican Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who in November said of a supporter, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row”?
Will the Republican leadership allow Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) to continue serving on the House Judiciary Committee? Like King, Gohmert has an exhaustive history of making remarkably ignorant and racist comments. In June of 2011, Gohmert took to the House floor to accuse Obama of being loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood. Last year, Gohmert introduced a resolution wanting to declare March 31, Cesar Chavez’s birthday, as “National Border Control Day.” Last October, Gohmert floated the idea that the president should invoke martial law to deal with the caravan of immigrants he characterized as “gangbangers.”
It was just over a year ago that President Trump declared that Haiti, El Salvador and Africa were “shithole countries” and that the U.S. should get more people from countries like Norway.
I certainly don’t see any of these suddenly outspoken Republicans denouncing the Trump administration’s directive to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census for the first time in 70 years at the behest of the disgraced Steve Bannon. A change that will result in the undercounting of immigrants and minorities.
Do not think for one minute that Republican leaders are sincere about substantively addressing racism in their own ranks. Speaking out against King’s comments is the exception, not the rule. The one example of action Republicans will hide behind to justify their silence on everything else. After all, if Mitch McConnell is sincere about there being “no place in the Republican Party, the Congress or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy of any kind” how could he possibly still be supporting and protecting the biggest racist of them all – Donald Trump.
Kurt Bardella is a HuffPost columnist and served as the spokesperson and senior adviser for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2009-2013. Follow him on Twitter: @kurtbardella