King was addressing a room of constituents in Iowa when he spoke about the devastating flooding that has been seen all across the Midwest, including in King’s state. While describing a visit he made to New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, King claimed that someone with the Federal Emergency Management Agency told him a story about the difference between people in Iowa and people in New Orleans.
King’s comments begin around the 6:30 minute mark in the video.
“I saw that from the air and from the ground and went back and did what we could to help those folks down there,” King said of his time in New Orleans. “But here’s what FEMA tells me: ‘We go to a place like New Orleans and everybody’s looking around saying, who’s gonna help me, who’s gonna help me?’”
King then claimed the FEMA official praised the people of Iowa for helping each other in similar circumstances, rather than waiting for outside assistance.
“They’re just always gratified when they come and see Iowans take care of each other, so that’s a point of pride that spreads across the country,” King said.
Neither FEMA nor King’s office responded to a request for comment for this article.
Although King’s remarks about New Orleans ― a city that is nearly 60 percent black ― did not include any explicit references to race, they evoked common but inaccurate stereotypes about black people relying on government handouts.
King in January professed to reject the “evil ideology” of white supremacism and white nationalism, but he has a prodigious history of uttering racist talking points, promoting racist individuals and media, openly questioning why being a “white supremacist” is a bad thing, and otherwise signaling his willingness to accommodate racists ― who in turn have made his political well-being a priority.
Meanwhile, for all the suffering inflicted by Katrina, there is ample evidence that people in Louisiana, and especially in New Orleans, took care of each other through the worst of it all, while the government response became notorious for its calamities.
In a tweet, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards called King’s remarks “disgusting and disheartening.”
Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.) said he found King’s remarks unsettling and also called out his fellow congressman for being a white supremacist.
“I won’t stand for it,” he wrote on Twitter.
This article has been updated with responses from the Louisiana governor and Rep. Cedric Richmond.