House Republicans vote to condemn Steve King’s racist rhetoric after years of blissful ignorance

They may look forceful this week, but GOP leadership has been silent for years.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is finally facing consequences for his long history of racist rhetoric. (CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is finally facing consequences for his long history of racist rhetoric. (CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

After nearly two decades as Congress’ premiere white nationalist, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is finally facing something of a comeuppance.

On Tuesday, the House voted 424-1 to pass a resolution, introduced by Majority Whip Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-GA), condemning white nationalism. The measure is a direct fallout from an interview King gave The New York Times last week, during which he asked when terms like white nationalist and white supremacist became offensive. The only vote against the resolution came from Rep. Bobby Rush (D-GA), who thought it didn’t go far enough in condemning King.

“White supremacy and white nationalism are contrary to the ideals of the United States of America,” the resolution reads. “While our country has often fallen short of these ideals, patriotic Americans have sought to form a more perfect Union by rejecting white nationalism and white supremacy, embracing inclusive patriotism, and welcoming immigrants from across the globe who have continuously enriched our nation.”

While the resolution did not directly condemn King himself, the vote is the latest indication that his racist rhetoric is no longer being ignored by his Republican colleagues. On Monday night, he was removed from his posts on the Judiciary and Agricultural Committees by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).


King may also face a formal censure vote within the next two days. One measure has been introduced by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), co-sponsored by Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), while another has been introduced by Rush. According to The New York Times, McCarthy has not ruled out supporting the censure.

But while Republicans now may be treating King like he’s toxic, King was allowed to spout hateful and racist rhetoric for years, with little more than a slap on the wrist from GOP leadership, if even that.

Last June, for instance, King re-tweeted British neo-Nazi Mark Collett, Republicans stayed almost completely silent. When King tweeted his support of far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders and added that “we can’t restore our civilization with someone else’s babies,” the only action then-Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) took was issuing a statement saying, “the speaker clearly disagrees.” His history of racist and offensive stunts stretches back to early in his congressional career, when he sued the Iowa secretary of state for posting voting information in languages other than English.

Despite this, Iowa Republicans have also repeatedly stood behind King. In the run-up the 2018 midterms — and right after King suggested that Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor “elope to Cuba” — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) recorded a video endorsement for King. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) also campaigned with King during that election, but announced last week, as the storm clouds around King’s remarks were brewing, that she wouldn’t be backing him in 2020 against primary challengers.

Neither McCarthy nor Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who called on King to resign on Tuesday, nor Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who criticized King in a Friday Washington Post op-ed, responded to requests for comment from ThinkProgress. A spokesperson for Joyce, however, said the congressman has in the past rebuked King for his outrageous comments, including a 2013 incident where he had a “man to man” conversation about his “stupid comments.”


“I can tell you that Congressman Joyce always held him responsible, personally and face to face. He believes that condemning this ideology should be common sense for anyone,” a spokeswoman for Joyce told ThinkProgress. “It’s unacceptable and disturbing.  Dave is a common sense conservative… he has no problem reaching across the aisle if there’s a way to hold us to a higher standard.”

The spokesperson added that Joyce has repeatedly condemned white supremacy when necessary. After the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, for instance, Joyce described the incident as “abhorrent acts of hate and bigotry” and said, “we all must stand up and condemn white supremacy.”

However, his spokesperson added that it was difficult to get this message out over the din of Republican politicians who are more popular on Twitter, which in turn “hurts our ability to discuss common sense solutions without finger pointing.”

Scott however, did not shy away from criticizing the GOP’s tactical silence on King’s racism in his op-ed. “When people with opinions similar to King’s open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole,” Scott wrote. “Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism — it is because of our silence when things like this are said.”

While Republicans may be lining up to finally condemn King, however, they’re not doing the same for President Donald Trump — despite the pair sharing a remarkably similar policy agenda. King championed a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as drastically cutting immigration, long before Trump was president. Trump has also, like King, proudly referred to himself as a nationalist.

“I market-tested your immigration policy for 14 years,” King said, referring to a conversation he had with Trump, in the same Times interview that has got him facing a formal censure. “That ought to be worth something.”