WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Rep. Steve King, whose open support of white nationalism and white supremacy lost him the support of key Republicans this year, is attending a fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party Tuesday evening where President Donald Trump is set to speak.
King arrived at the Ron Pearson Center Tuesday afternoon, just as Trump was arriving in Council Bluffs for an “official” event touting corn ethanol, a key issue for Iowa corn farmers. A spokesperson for the state party confirmed to HuffPost that all Republican legislators from the state were invited to the fundraiser, including King, who represents the northwest quadrant of Iowa.
In January, King condoned white nationalism in an interview with The New York Times. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King told the Times. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
In response, House GOP leaders punished the congressman by stripping him of his committee assignments. “These comments are abhorrent and racist and should have no place in our national discourse,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the third-ranking Republican in the chamber, who also called on King to resign.
The Iowa Republican Party didn’t respond directly to a question from HuffPost about the propriety of including King in Tuesday’s event, considering the congressman’s long history of bigotry and white nationalism.
Aaron Britt, a spokesman for the state party, said only that “all Iowa elected GOP officials have been extended an invitation to this private, party fundraiser.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee didn’t respond to a question regarding King’s invitation to the fundraiser. The Trump campaign also did not respond to queries about Trump’s appearance with King and whether the president intended to endorse the congressman.
Democrats, meanwhile, wasted little time tying Trump to King. “Whether they’re rubbing elbows with wealthy Republican donors or working together in Washington to rip health care away from Iowans with preexisting conditions, Congressman Steve King and President Trump are two peas in a pod,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Brooke Goren.
David Kochel, a prominent Republican political consultant, said a mere appearance by Trump at an event that King attends cannot really be construed as an endorsement, particularly given Trump’s habit of posting his explicit endorsements on Twitter.
“King’s been showing up at all kinds of events. He knows he’s got a primary,” Kochel said. “I don’t think it means anything that he’s showing up there.”
King won reelection in November by the smallest margin of his long congressional career, beating out Democrat J.D. Scholten in Iowa’s deeply conservative 4th District by only 3 points. He faces three Republican opponents in a primary next year.
King’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment regarding Tuesday’s fundraiser in Des Moines.
Rory Cooper, a GOP consultant and once a top aide to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), said King is now poison to the party.
“Steve King not only makes it hard to hold his seat, but he makes it hard for all congressional Republicans who are associated with him and the things he says,” Cooper said. “He has raised almost no money and it’s in the party’s best interest to keep it that way. If King is too embarrassing and offensive to sit on any committees, that should extend to any support given to protect his reelection.”
Cooper said he did not know why, given King’s liabilities, the Iowa party invited him to the event. “Poor decision-making is sadly not rare these days,” he said.
This article has been updated with King’s arrival at the event.