Anti-Immigrant Congressman To Senate Dems: I’m Not A Xenophobe

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) CREDIT: AP
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) CREDIT: AP

During a long, rambling speech on the House floor, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) insisted that he was not a xenophobe and that his views are in line with the Republican party platform. As proof, King said that because he wasn’t afraid of three Senate Democrats — Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Harry Reid (D-NV), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) — who put together a comprehensive immigration bill, that he does not espouse sentiments related to “xenophobia.” At one point, King offered to duel Schumer with “microphones within arms’ reach.”

Xenophobia. I looked that up when I came to Congress. We don’t use that in the streets where I come from, but I’ve known its definition for a long time: ‘being afraid of something that you don’t know.’ Well, I don’t often get accused of being afraid of anything so when I am … I say this: Chuck Schumer is not like me. I’m not afraid of him, so it’s not xenophobia. Harry Reid is not like me. I’m not like him. I’m not afraid of Harry Reid so that’s not xenophobia. Dick Durbin is not like me. I’m not afraid of him. That’s not xenophobia. What xenophobia are they talking about, Mr. Speaker, is my question?

And so if we’re going to have some kind of challenge or rhetoric bouncing back between the House and Senate. Let’s do it face to face. Let’s do it eye to eye. Let’s have that duel, not like Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, but I would be the one standing on the high ground on that. Let’s do it like real men do it today, not dueling with 50 paces and pistols. but let’s do it with microphones within arms’ reach. Maybe we can get to the bottom of it and we can determine who actually had the xenophobia.

Schumer responded in a tweet Thursday, “When [Rep.] Steve King lets the House debate comprehensive immigration reform on the floor, I’ll happily debate him.”

While King is partially correct that the definition for xenophobia means to be afraid of something that’s unfamiliar, the word is generally accepted to specifically reference foreigners. Perusing the accepted definition, King regularly adopts xenophobic statements. Most recently, King said that undocumented youths who want to serve in the U.S. military are “mercenaries” who are “defrauding the Department of Defense.” In the past, he argued against passing immigration reform because people from a “violent civilization” would create a more violent environment for individuals living in a “less-violent civilization.” He has also compared undocumented immigrants to a variety of animals and drug mules. He also said that they have calves the size of cantaloupes. Meanwhile, he has compared himself to Jesus.

In a particularly telling sign that the Republican party has aligned with King, he said, “I would direct Chuck Schumer to the Republican platform. You’ll find there language in the Republican platform that supports the position that I held on immigration.” And earlier in the day, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) laughed off remarks by a reporter that he was blocking immigration reform, saying that House Republicans would never pass the Senate bill, then thanked the reporter for his “opinion.”