Gov. Reynolds keeps Steve King as campaign co-chair, won’t say if King’s comments are racist

Gov. Kim Reynolds — photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor of Iowa

At her weekly press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Steve King’s recent comment declaring diversity to be a weakness that is damaging America has not changed her mind about having King as a statewide co-chair of her campaign for governor.

“I have a lot co-chairs that have signed up to participate in our campaign,” Reynolds told reporters. She explained, “I’m not going to agree with everything that they have to say and I can certainly make it known when I don’t agree with a comment that they made, but I also want to be able to work with them on really important issues for Iowans.”

On December 8, the western Iowa congressman tweeted:

Orbán is greatly admired by white nationalists around the world, and is known for making statements widely considered to be racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic. The tweet was not the first time King has approvingly quoted Orbán or other European politicians associated with far-right racial politics.

At the press conference, Reynolds said, “I believe that diversity has made this state and this country stronger and so I completely disagree with what he said.”

But asked whether King’s comment was racist, Reynolds replied with a long, rambling answer that suggested addressing whether the comment was racist might interfere with her attempts to improve the economy in Iowa, as well as jeopardize federal tax reform efforts.

I just passionately said, passionately said, what I focused on every day. We have a lot of challenges in this state and in this country, and I am focused on creating the competitive business environment, making sure our that our students have skills to be successful that they can find a job or participate in post-secondary education, so we can keep them in the state. I am focused on making sure that businesses can grow and expand and hire Iowans and raise our family incomes. That’s what I’m focused on every day.

I’m not going to get involved in the Twitter war. I’m not going to participate in that. We need to focus on what we need to focus on. And we need to do everything we can to make sure that we get tax reform done at the federal level, so we can create a simpler, fairer tax environment that inspires and doesn’t inhibit growth. That’s what I’m focused on.

Reynolds was more succinct when she introduced King as one of her statewide campaign co-chairs at her Harvest Festival fundraiser, the same event at which she called Iowa liberals “unhinged.” “Congressman King. Defender of freedom, our conservative values, candid, independent, principled,” Reynolds said. “You never have to question where that congressman stands.”

By that time King had a well-established, national reputation for making statements considered racist. For example, during an appearance on a cable news show in July 2016, King derided the idea that anyone other than white people had made a significant contributions to civilization. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about,” King said. “Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

In March of this year, King again attracted national attention when he tweeted a reference to far-right, anti-immigration Dutch politician Geert Wilders and stated:

Following that tweet, The Atlantic published a story on King that began, “Steve King has always made a habit of speaking his mind, and quite frequently his mind has been controversial, blatantly false, or outright racist.”

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In a Nov. 1 press release from the Reynolds campaign announcing the appointment of King as a statewide co-chair, the governor said, “I look forward to him joining us in our effort to build a better Iowa.”

Little Village emailed the Reynolds campaign to ask how King’s anti-diversity stance will help the governor build a better Iowa, and whether she considered King’s most recent comments to be any different from the comments he made before she appointed him co-chair, but has not yet received a reply.

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