In the past week, it appeared the long overdue backlash to Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and his white nationalism had finally arrived. After ignoring King’s racism for years, congressional Republicans struck a different tone, admonishing King and stripping him of committee assignments.
But now, that backlash has prompted its own backlash. Members of the Religious Right, white supremacists, and others on the far-right have joined forces to rally around the racist congressman. Rather than stepping down, as some of his colleagues suggested, King seems emboldened by the support and is trying to use the fallout to raise money for his re-election campaign.
Far-right activist Janet Porter has been gathering signatures of prominent religious leaders as part of an open letter to House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), which calls on McCarthy to reinstate King to the Agricultural and Judiciary Committees. The letter also pleads with McCarthy not to make the “fatal mistake” of allowing the “liberal media” to dictate Congress’ agenda. Signatories include former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, conservative activist Andy Schlafy, and Rena Lindevaldsen, a professor at Jerry Falwell’s evangelical Liberty University.
“We are appalled that Republican leadership would choose to believe a liberal news organization famous for their bias over an outstanding member of Congress who has served the people of Iowa and the United States honorably and faithfully for 16 years,” the letter, first reported by Right Wing Watch, reads. “Unlike North Korea, we in the United States are ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and hold to the principles of Western Civilization, as Rep. King so admirably does.”
Porter, the letter’s organizer, is an anti-abortion activist and former spokeswoman for Judge Roy Moore, former Alabama Republican Senate candidate who was accused of sexually abusing multiple young women. In 2017, Porter was famously admonished live on CNN when she made references to the unborn child of anchor Poppy Harlow, who was pregnant at the time.
“Let’s leave my child out of this,” Harlow replied to Porter’s comments on how Moore would “stand up for the rights of babies, like yours, in the womb.”
The “presumption of innocence” argument featured in the letter is the same defense conservatives brought to the forefront during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of raping a woman when they were both in high school.
King’s defense of white nationalism is nothing new, however. He has been openly airing his racist thoughts for more than a decade. In 2018, he was recorded referring to immigrants as “dirt” during his re-election campaign. That year, he also re-tweeted British neo-Nazi Mark Collett, and endorsed a white supremacist candidate in the Toronto mayoral race. King’s outright racism as a congressman can be traced back to 2005, when he sued the Iowa secretary of state for posting voting information in languages other than English. The most recent outrage stemmed from a January 10 New York Times interview, in which King asked why terms like “white supremacist,” “white nationalist,” and “Western civilization” became offensive.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the far-right is also rallying around King, including white supremacist and neo-Nazi factions. The Daily Stormer, which is run by avowed neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, has repeatedly run “articles” referring to King as a “hero” and “Aryan Master.” Infowars, run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, has claimed that the “Steve King debacle sets yet another future precedent to take out any Trump allies based on hearsay” — which, evidently, means an on-the-record interview that King himself has not disputed.
On Thursday, meanwhile, Red Ice TV, a far-right YouTube channel, published a video defending King, which was narrated by Patrick Casey. Casey is the leader of Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group that was also present at the violent 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. “Steve King is correct here,” Casey says in the new video. “The left’s conception of progress involves an ongoing departure from the past.”
King also maintains at least one ally in Congress. On Wednesday, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) gave an interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph in which he defended King’s recent remarks. “He was talking about Western civilization, that ‘When did Western civilization become a negative?'” Gohmert said. “That’s a fair question. When did Western civilization become a negative?”
King is now attempting to channel this latest wave of criticism into a fundraising opportunity for his campaign. In an email sent to his supporters, first reported by the Des Moines Register, King states that the “unhinged left has teamed up with Republican ‘NeverTrumpers’ and is pulling out all the stops to destroy me.”
In fairness, King does need to marshal his support. A new poll released Friday has him down an astonishing eight points to a generic Democrat in his historically red 4th district. For comparison, Iowa Sen. Jodi Ernst (R), has a 23-point lead over a generic Democrat.
Not only can King seek to build on this new support, he also rest easier about the now-waning possibility of becoming the first congressman to be censured since Charles B. Rangel in 2010. On Wednesday, two resolutions — one a Democrat measure, the other a bipartisan measure — to censure King were referred to the House ethics committee. According to CNN, some Democratic leaders were concerned that the censure step could then be used to censure Democrats over perceived breaches of “civility.”