Republican lawmakers last month finally admonished Rep. Steve King (R-IA) for a series of comments he made during an interview with The New York Times. In the interview, King, who has a long history of racist behavior, questioned why white nationalism and white supremacy were offensive.
The Iowa congressman later offered a half-hearted apology and was stripped of all his committee assignments in the House of Representatives.
King is now begging to be reinstated. As part of that effort, he appears to have recruited a list of individuals he referred to as “pro-family leaders” to defend him. The group notably includes several high-profile anti-LGBTQ activists and figures.
In a letter King released Tuesday, the group of around 200 “pro-family leaders” called on Republican leadership to reinstate King to his former assignments, claiming falsely that he had been misquoted by the Times.
“If [King] believed and stood by the outrageous misquote…then the actions taken against him would have been warranted, but the opposite is true,” they wrote. “… Don’t make the fatal mistake of turning the reins of the U.S. Congress over to the liberal media, allowing them to target, misquote, and falsely brand any member of Congress they wish to remove.”
One of the very first names on the list is Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader who resigned from Congress in June 2006, after he was charged with money laundering. DeLay later went on to become one of the most prominent Republicans to embrace birtherism, a racist conspiracy theory that claims President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
Another birther on the list is far-right pastor Rick Joyner of MorningStar Ministries. As recently as last year, Joyner was promoting the baseless idea that Obama was a “Manchurian candidate” with no birth certificate. In 2017, he blamed Obama for fomenting racism and reigniting white supremacist groups, claiming that, before Obama was elected, “we had just about dealt with racism in America.” Joyner also regularly blames sin for natural disasters and mass shootings.
Islamophobic conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, who believes the United States is succumbing to Shariah law, also made the list. In 2012, Gaffney claimed Obama was promoting a radical Islamist and radical homosexual agenda in the U.S. armed forces.
Several other names on the list of “pro-family leaders” raise red flags. Cynthia Dunbar, a member of the Republican National Committee, is perhaps best known for believing the United States was founded to be “an emphatically Christian government” and that creationism should be taught in schools. She also previously suggested school textbooks introduce a new focus on the “significant contributions” of pro-slavery Confederate leaders during the Civil War.
One signer conspicuously left off his last name, identifying himself only as “Pastor Dean, The Life Center.” That likely refers to Pastor Dean Curry, who previously served as senior pastor at The Life Center, a megachurch in Tacoma, Washington. He was fired last year “because of repeat violations of Life Center’s sexual harassment policies.”
The list also includes Kayla Moore and Caleb Moore, wife and son of former Alabama Supreme Court Justice and failed Senate candidate Roy Moore, who was accused in 2017 of sexual predation and misconduct. Kayla Moore runs her husband’s organization, the Foundation for Moral Law, which allegedly employs Caleb as well, though the organization claims this is not true. The Moore’s organization stood by Roy amid the sexual misconduct allegations and regularly takes extreme legal positions opposing LGBTQ equality. Caleb Moore has also been arrested nine times since 2011.
Gun activist Larry Pratt also showed support for King. Like many signers, Pratt believes the United States is and should be a Christian nation. His fervent gun advocacy reflects his fear that a race war is coming, and white Christians must be armed to protect themselves. Pratt also serves as president of English First, which advocates for “English Only” constitutional amendments at the state and federal level.
Focus on the Family founder and prominent evangelical activist James Dobson also appears on the list. Though he is no longer affiliated with Focus on the Family, Dobson continues his advocacy through writing and a radio show. Last year, he wrote that marriage equality was a “cultural disaster” and defended the Trump administration’s proposal to erase recognition of transgender identities in federal law because LGBTQ protections “go against legislative intent and biology.”
A litany of other extreme anti-LGBTQ activists also signed the letter, including:
- Rick Scarborough of Vision America, who said he’d burn himself alive to oppose marriage equality.
- Janet Porter of Faith2Action, the architect of Ohio’s anti-choice “heartbeat bills” and whose website outlines “the dangers of homosexuality.”
- Sandy Rios of the American Family Association, an anti-LGBTQ hate group, who believes LGBTQ people are “disordered” and incapable of serving in the military.
- Scott Lively, who believes homosexuality was responsible for the Nazi Party and is best known for advocating for Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” law.
- Steven Hotze and Dave Welch, two of the engineers of Texas’ anti-LGBTQ movement.
- Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, former Republican member of the Colorado House of Representatives, who frequently denigrates same-sex couples, has called intimacy between same-sex couples “cooperating with the devil,” and who has claimed same-sex couples “recruit” young children through adoption to abuse them sexually.
- Matt Barber and Peter LaBarbera, virulent opponents of gay rights. LaBarbera earned nickname “Porno Pete” from equality activists because of his penchant for videorecording kink festivals in an attempt to demonstrate the debauchery of the gay community.
- William Owens, who heads up the astroturf “Coalition of African-American Pastors,” a small group designed as part of an anti-marriage equality strategy to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks.”
- Brian Camenker of MassResistance (an anti-LGBTQ hate group), who believes anti-LGBTQ Christians like himself are being treated just like the Jews in Nazi Germany.
King’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the list of names.