GOP Congressman cultivating ties with anti-Muslim parties across Europe

One of them was founded by Nazis.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. administers the House oath of office to Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa., during a mock swearing in ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Zach Gibson
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. administers the House oath of office to Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa., during a mock swearing in ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Zach Gibson

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has been busy cultivating relationships with anti-EU populists and Islamophobes from all over Europe. He has even struck up a special relationship with an Austrian party founded by Nazis in the wake of World War II.

The Congressman — who is infamous for accusing child asylum seekers of smuggling drugs into the U.S., keeping a confederate flag at his desk, and asking what contributions nonwhite people have made to society — has been openly forming political partnerships and personal friendships with a wide array of leaders on Europe’s xenophobic and populist right. Among his stated acquaintances are members of populist and nativist parties from Austria, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

King’s collusion with fringe right wingers, including many holding anti-Muslim beliefs, should come as little surprise. This is the same man who once said that Islam is incompatible with American values and called for the government to spy on American mosques.

King has yet to make a statement on an executive order from the weekend that severely limits entry into the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries. He did, however, feel obliged to tweet about the dangers of multiculturalism and immigration. His office did not reply to a request for comment from ThinkProgress.

King was recently seen palling around with the leaders of Austria’s Freedom Party. The Freedom Party, founded by a former SS officer in 1956, ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Austrian presidency last month. King tweeted out his condolences to Norbert Hofer, the Freedom Party’s candidate, at the time.

“The cause of freedom & our friendship remain,” he wrote. “Onward!”

But Hofer is just one of King’s many friends on the European far right.

The Iowa congressman also hosted noted Islamophobic Dutch politician Geert Wilders in Washington, D.C. in April 2015. Wilders, leader of the Netherlands’ Freedom Party (sensing a theme here?), is riding the international populist wave and could grasp victory in his country’s elections this March. Wilders has frequently and openly expressed a willingness to stem immigration — particularly Muslim immigration — to the Netherlands; among his myriad anti-Muslim statements are gems like, “the right to religious freedom should not apply to Islam.”

At a rally in 2014, Wilders asked a crowd: “In the Netherlands, do you want more or fewer Moroccans?”

“Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” the crowd in the Dutch city of The Hague replied.

“Then I’ll arrange it,” Wilders said at the time. He was later tried and found guilty for discrimination and inciting hatred.

King was recently spotted meeting with Wilders alongside another far right-wing politician, Frauke Petry. Petry leads the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) — an anti-immigrant party that reminds some in the country of the Nazi party. The New Yorker described the AfD as Germany’s “most successful nationalist phenomenon since the Second World War.”

In October, King met with Marine Le Pen — a far right party leader in France who has had a surge in popularity in recent weeks and is considered a real contender in the French presidential election, set to take place in May. Le Pen is running on a platform opposing immigration and has repeatedly stoked fear of Islam to bolster support for her campaign.

King was the first elected American official to publicly meet with Le Pen, and the two are set to meet again, this time in Washington, D.C. in January.

Le Pen tweeted in October that she had an “interesting exchange” with King on France, the U.S., and international affairs.

Although King’s outreach to the European far right is exceptional, he’s not the only American politician currently trying to establish ties with leaders such as Hofer and Le Pen. Heinz-Christian Strache, head of the Austrian Freedom Party, said in December that he had met with President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. At the time, Trump’s transition team described the report as “fake news.”

And top Trump adviser Steve Bannon, now a member of the president’s National Security Council, turned Breitbart Media into a platform for boosting the European far right when he was the publication’s chief executive.