Congressman Steve King (R-IA) participated in a radio debate with Democratic challenger Christie Vilsack last night, and was given a chance to explain a comment he made in May comparing immigrants to dogs.
But instead of apologizing, or even explaining how he simply misspoke, King told the audience that the comment was really meant as a compliment, and that anyone who interpreted it as an insult — namely, everyone — was simply motivated by partisanship and incapable of cooperation:
VILSACK: Frankly, he’s been a bully, and he’s an embarrassment to the people of Iowa when he talks about immigrants as animals. If my mother were here she would say to Congressman King ‘show some decency.’
KING: …This American vigor that we have that comes from legal immigrants who came to this country with a dream — we get the cream of the crop of every donor civilization on the planet — and people that can take a compliment and turn it into an insult are not going to be constructive working across the isle. But that’s what that was, was a compliment. And everyone who was there that heard that knows that.
King’s original comment, first flagged by Salon’s Alex Seitz-Wald in May, was made during a town hall meeting in Pocahontas, Iowa. He told the audience that immigrants were like bird dogs: “You get the pick of the litter and you got yourself a pretty good bird dog. Well, we’ve got the pick of every donor civilization on the planet,” he said.
King has a long history of inflammatory rhetoric about both immigrants and dogs. He has worked with xenophobic icons of the far-right like Sheriff Joe Arpaio and criticized minority college students as “people that feel sorry for themselves.” And in July, King advocated for the legalization of dog fighting, a felony crime punishable with severe jail time and hefty penalties.