Column: Rep. Steve King retweets Nazi sympathizer, Iowa GOP unconcerned


Congressman Steve King speaks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition in Des Moines on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition is a dedicated to educating the public and training Christians for effective political action. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

Rep. Steve King’s long history of bigoted statements has not delivered real political consequences.

Isabella Rosario and Lucee Laursen

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Rep. Steve King recently came under fire for retweeting self-described Nazi sympathizer Mark Collett. The Iowa GOP has remained complicit through the congressman’s repeated bigotry. While party leaders have condemned King’s statements in the past, they haven’t denounced him entirely. Two columnists on opposite ends of the political spectrum argue that King’s racism has no place in the Republican Party.

The GOP must condemn King for his pattern of disrespect

After Steve King’s most recent bout with controversy, I am left wondering why my party has not condemned King for his continual racist comments.

Throughout his 15-year stint in Congress, King has built a contentious reputation. King is known for: keeping a Confederate flag on his desk; in 2008, referring to Sen. Barack Obama as “Barack Hussein Obama”; and consistently using rhetoric on social media that toes the line of outright racism. And although some Republicans have not supported King’s specific tweets or racist habits, the GOP has yet to call for King’s removal.

I can understand the party’s apprehension. Calling for King’s removal is thought to be a strategic nightmare that most members of the GOP are not willing to embark on. “There is little Republican leaders can do to control someone who is a giant pest who hasn’t technically broken any rules of the chamber,” said Ron Paul, a former congressman and occasional  presidential candidate.

But when voters fail to make a necessary change, it becomes the party’s responsibility to take action. For example: when Al Franken’s history of sexual assault and harassment was exposed, women in the Democratic Party called for Franken’s resignation.

The result of Franken’s ouster: The Democratic Party set a precedent that inappropriate sexual behavior will not be tolerated. Franken was held accountable for his actions, and the Democratic Party did not lose a left-leaning vote in the Senate because a fellow Democrat took Franken’s seat.

If Republicans call for King’s resignation, we, too, can turn over a new leaf. The GOP would set a precedent that racism will not be tolerated ​— something that the Republican Party desperately needs. And because Iowa’s 4th District is deeply red, King will more than likely be replaced by another Republican.

The GOP must hold King responsible for his less than palatable comments and actions. This is not a one-time mistake, it is a pattern of disrespect. Party leaders must weed out fellow party representatives who are racist. If they do not, we can not be surprised when the Republican Party’s reputation as a whole is tied to racism.

— Lucee Laursen

Rejecting racism should not be a partisan issue

Perhaps Rep. Steve King’s retweet of a Nazi sympathizer could be brushed off as an honest mistake if it were an isolated situation. But King’s history of racism and xenophobia is extensive and well-documented.

In 2006, King likened illegal immigrants to livestock while promoting an electrified fence on the U.S.-Mexico border. In 2010, he referred to then-President Barack Obama as “very, very urban,” claiming he favored black farmers as a senator. In 2016, he questioned what non-white people have contributed to civilization. You get the picture.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds was asked to comment on this latest controversy during her appearance on “Iowa Press” last month. While Reynolds said she disagrees with King’s comments, she maintains him as her campaign co-chair.

“The fact of the matter is, he does represent over one-fourth of the state, so people that live in his district,” she said.

That’s true — and while some national news outlets have tried to investigate why King’s district still supports him, that’s not the issue at hand here. That Reynolds refuses to sever ties with King indicates that while she may disagree with King’s racism, it’s a compromise she’s willing to make for her future vision of Iowa.

This acceptance of King despite his bigotry is the norm for Iowa Republican Party leaders. Reynolds endorsed King in 2016, calling him an “effective advocate for his district and for Iowans.” King was also endorsed in 2016 by Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst over his challenger Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City.

As it stands now, King can say whatever he wants without political consequences. As a registered Democrat, I disagree with Republican Party leaders on taxes and health care. But bigotry should not be a partisan issue. The time for the Iowa GOP to denounce King’s re-election — not just his rhetoric — is long overdue.

— Isabella Rosario

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