Kim Reynolds’ continued embrace of Steve King has become an issue in the governor’s race one week before the general election.
On Tuesday, Rep. Steve Stivers the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) condemned the eight-term Iowa congressman’s “recent comments, actions, and retweets.” The Ohio Republican tweeted, “We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn [King’s] behavior.”
Congressman Steve King’s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate. We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.
— Steve Stivers (@RepSteveStivers) October 30, 2018
Also on Tuesday, Reynolds’ Democratic opponent, Fred Hubbell, called on the governor to remove King as one of her campaign co-chairs.
Steve King's actions do not represent our Iowa values and I call on Governor Reynolds to remove him from his leading role in her campaign. #iagov
— Fred Hubbell (@FredHubbell) October 30, 2018
King was one of the first people Reynolds named as a campaign co-chair. At her first public campaign fundraiser in September 2017 — the same event where she called Iowa liberals “unhinged” — Reynolds praised King, who was in the audience.
“Congressman King. Defender of freedom, our conservative values, candid, independent, principled,” Reynolds said. “You never have to question where that congressman stands.”
This NRCC condemnation of King followed the mass murder at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning. The killer, a right-wing extremist, appears to have been fueled by anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, especially ones involving secret Jewish plots to flood the country with immigrants in order to overwhelm the white population.
Two days before the synagogue attack, the Washington Post published a story on King’s August meeting with members of a far-right, anti-immigrant Austrian political party founded by a former Nazi SS officer, whose members embrace conspiracy theories very similar to the one the shooter believed.
It wasn’t the first time King had met with the members of that party, but what made this time different was that the meeting came during a European trip sponsored by a Holocaust memorial group.
In addition to meeting with officials of the Austrian party, King gave an extensive interview to a site associated with party, in which he embraced the its main anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic conspiracy theory — one that falsely asserts Jews, especially the Hungarian-American investor and philanthropist George Soros, are secretly coordinating a plan to destroy Western civilization by flooding Europe with nonwhite, non-Christian immigrants.
King claimed during the interview that America is also being undermined by immigrants (“They are invading our country, they are just not wearing uniforms.”) and Soros.
“His money floats in in such a way you can’t see the flow, but if you trace it back you can connect it to his foundation,” he said about Soros, who King asserted is responsible for actions that are “eroding away and assaulting our civilization.”
Soros is a major funder of liberal causes, and according to King, liberals are more than “unhinged,” they are engaged in a “war” against Western civilization.
King told the Austrian site, “The Left thinks all people and cultures are interchangeable and diversity is always good, and we can tolerate the rape and the murder that goes along with it, like Molly [sic] Tibbetts, for example. The Left is already saying this.”
The Reynolds campaign has not been responding to questions about King, but Caroline Cumming of CBS2 Iowa was able to ask Reynolds directly if she’d consider removing King as campaign co-chair.
Reynolds side-stepped the question.
“I’ve made it very clear I strongly disagree with the comments he’s made,” she said, before listing things she wanted to talk about. Reynolds minimized her connection to King, even though King is a long-time political ally and was the one who formally nominated Reynolds for lieutenant governor at the 2010 Iowa Republican convention. “He’s one of thousands of chairs and co-chairs on my campaign, a lot of elected officials that have endorsed me,” she said.
The governor concluded by saying she shouldn’t be held accountable for the people she’s appointed to represent her campaign: “I can’t be held responsible for everyone’s comments, I can be held responsible for myself.”
Here is a clip of my asking @KimReynoldsIA if she'll remove @SteveKingIA as campaign co-chair, in wake of calls for her to do so. "I can't be held responsible for everyone's comments. I can be held responsible for myself," she told me. WACTH ⬇️#iagov #iapolitics pic.twitter.com/4RJS8rDdGV
— Caroline Cummings (@CaroRCummings) October 31, 2018
This has been Reynolds’ standard way of responding to questions about King.
Last December, King endorsed a statement by Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán, a hero to white nationalists: “Mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life but a lower one.”
Diversity is not our strength. Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, “Mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life but a lower one.” https://t.co/ZlMXzcc87w
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) December 8, 2017
Following that, Reynolds was asked during a press conference about King and his role in her campaign. She began by saying she considered diversity to be a strength, before seguing into her standard response.
I have a lot co-chairs that have signed up to participate in our campaign. 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.
In June, King told Breitbart Radio he didn’t want Somali Muslim immigrants working in meat-packing plants in his western Iowa district.
“So as long as they’re preparing this pork for infidels, it helps send them to hell and it must make Allah happy — I don’t want people doing my pork that won’t eat it, let alone hope I go to hell for eating pork chops,” he said.
Appearing on Iowa Press shortly after King’s comments were reported, Reynolds said, “This would be one of those situations, one of the comments that he’d made that I absolutely don’t agree with.” But that was as far as the governor went in criticizing King.
Asked if King was “giving Iowa a bad name as a place to locate a business,” Reynolds replied with a long, “Noooooo.”
Whether or not they give Iowa “a bad name,” King’s long history of white nationalist comments may finally be having an impact on his political future. Three major corporations — Intel, Purina and Land of Lakes — announced they will no longer contribute to King. Following Stivers’ tweet, the NRCC’s communication director said the group was ending its support for King’s reelection bid.
“We believe Congressman King’s words and actions are completely inappropriate and we strongly condemn them,” Matt Gorman said during an appearance on Fox News.
It’s unclear what impact all this will have on King’s chances for reelection. The data journalism site 538 still rates the district as “Likely R.”
After being dropped by the three corporations and the NRCC, King tweeted a response.