Steve King’s white nationalist and anti-Semitic rhetoric are on full display as U.S. reckons with hate crimes

Rep. Steve King — Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Steve King, the longest-serving current member of Iowa’s U.S. House of Representatives delegation, became a focus of attention for the national media and on social media following the mass murder at the Tree of Life Synagogue 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.

It’s no surprise King would come to mind in this situation, since only two days before the killings, the Washington Post reported on an August trip to Europe by King, during which he met with members of a far-right, anti-immigrant Austrian political party founded by a former Nazi SS officer.

It’s not the first time King has met with representatives of the Freedom Party of Austria (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs or FPO), but what made this time different is that King’s trip was sponsored by a Holocaust memorial group.

King’s airfare to and from Europe was paid by From the Depths (the name comes from Psalm 130), which has a program that brings legislators from various countries to Europe for educational tours. The nonprofit had no idea King would be making a side trip to meet the Austrians, after his scheduled visits to sites such as Auschwitz.

The FPO focuses on restricting immigration to Europe and promoting what it calls “traditional Western values.” Heinz-Christian Strache, a former member of neo-Nazi youth groups and now the leader of the FPO, insists the party has moved away from the Nazi ideology its founder espoused when he was an SS officer. Party members tend to reject the term “white nationalist” and prefer to be called “ethno-nationalist.”

But the FPO has had problems over the past year, with several party officials being caught trafficking in Nazi imagery.

As the Post reported, King readily defends the FPO (they are “friends and allies” who “completely reject any kind of Nazi ideology or philosophy,” he said) and notes that members hold office in Austria. King has also claimed the FPO reminds him of the GOP.

“If they were in America pushing the platform that they push, they would be Republicans,” he said.

The FPO, like most of the European far-right, is fixated on the so-called “Great Replacement,” a belief that nonwhite, non-Christian immigrants to Europe will become the dominant demographic group on the continent. Once that happens, the non-Europeans will destroy Western civilization and impose an Islamic dictatorship.

During his August trip, King gave an interview to the FPO-affiliated site Unzensuriert (German for “uncensored”), in which he said he is also concerned about the Great Replacement.

“Great replacement, yes,” King said. “These people walking into Europe by ethnic migration, 80 percent are young men. They are somebody else’s babies.”

In a 2017 tweet, King warned that immigration could destroy American society: “culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

King told Unzensuriert that America and Europe are facing similar threats from young male immigrants.

“They are invading our country, they are just not wearing uniforms,” the eight-term congressman from Western Iowa said. “They come from the most violent countries in the world.”

Speaking about the threat posed by immigrants, King invoked the murder of Mollie Tibbetts, “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.”

King also claimed “the Left” has insulated itself from immigrants.

[I]n the US, you get these silos of ethnicity, where you can drive by in your Mercedes and say, ‘Oh look, how multicultural I am,’ but that is wrong, it is just a mosaic. I have said that diversity is not a strength. The Left just repeats it again and again, but it is mindless. What does this diversity bring that we don’t already have? Mexican food, Chinese food, those things, well, that’s fine, but what does it bring that we don’t have that is worth the price?

King addressed the role of Islam in the undermining of Western civilization, in response to Unzensuriert asking “is Islam the problem or Western liberalism?”

“They have teamed up against Western civilization,” King said. “Between the two of them, it is like fighting a two front war.”

He continued,

So how is it, that the liberals, the leftists, on the one side, could build an alliance with the misogynistic hard core rightist Islamic people that have no tolerance for anything? … How can the women’s movement embrace a misogynist religion? That’s indeed stunning. It means to me, they hate Western civilization more than anything.

It’s widely believed on the European far-right that there’s a secret Jewish conspiracy behind the Great Replacement, a belief that echoes centuries of European anti-Semitism. Hungarian-American investor and philanthropist George Soros, who has long been a major funder of liberal causes, as well as efforts to promote justice, democracy and international understanding frequently labeled as “liberal” by opponents of those efforts, is frequently cited as a leader of the secret conspiracy. On this side of the Atlantic, Republican politicians and conservative media figures have claimed Soros is secretly funding Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States.

As the Anti-Defamation League documented in a May report on the surge of anti-Semitic speech on Twitter since the beginning of 2017 (“including classic stereotypes, code words, symbols and conspiracy theories”), anti-Semites often focus on Soros.

The Hungarian Jewish billionaire, Holocaust survivor and philanthropist figures prominently in anti-Semitic tweets, with claims that he directly uses his largess to fund false flag events. One noteworthy allegation claims that Soros was responsible for the deadly ‘Unite the Right’ rally in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Va. Other tweets refer to his Jewish heritage in pejorative terms and claims that he’s trying to undermine Western civilization.

In his Unzensuriert interview, King was very clear that he considers Soros a malevolent figure.

As the interview’s final question, Unzensuriert asked, “If you agree with most European right-wingers, that there is such a thing as a plan for the Great replacement [sic], are there forces you can name, people you can point at? Who is going to execute this plan and why?”

“I guess Soros is part of your question,” King began, before saying Soros has had a big impact on American politics. “We might not have had ‘Obamacare’ without 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,” King said. He asserted that the protesters at the January 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. were paid by Soros.

After claiming Soros “is operating in 60 different countries,” King said,

There needs to be an antidote to Soros. I’m not a big money guy, I’m not sitting on billions of dollars. But I have a voice and I have a network of people. So how do we produce the antidote to what George Soros is doing? This idea of secular liberalism is eroding away and assaulting our civilization.

(King isn’t the only Iowa politician to recently engage in conspiracy-mongering involving Soros. Sen. Chuck Grassley said earlier this month that he “tends to believe” that women who protested the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh weren’t genuine survivors of sexual assault, but Soros-paid actors instead. Buzzfeed contacted Grassley’s office last week, after the philanthropist was targeted by the pro-Trump mail bomber, to ask if the senator had reconsidered his statement about Soros. Grassley’s office didn’t address the senator’s conspiracy theory or its anti-Semitic undertones, and pointed instead to a boilerplate statement on civility.)

The Post’s story on King’s meeting with the FPO during a trip paid for by a Holocaust memorial group came just nine days after the congressman publicly endorsed the candidacy of Faith Goldy, a self-described Canadian ethno-nationalist running for mayor of Toronto.

Goldy, had previously attracted international attention from a video in which she defends the “14 words,” a white supremacist statement of belief, as simply common sense. In 2017, Goldy attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia — which united everyone from casual alt-right Trump supporters to hardcore neo-Nazis — and later spoke enthusiastically about the “white racial consciousness” she witnessed that day.

“[The manifesto for the rally] was 20 points around which they could all just rally: everything from race, the JQ [Jewish Question] — which is of course, is something the alt-right spends a lot of time talking about — economics, women and sex, globalism,” she told an alt-right podcast.

“The Jews will not replace us,” marchers at the rally chanted, referencing the American version of the Great Replacement and King’s fears about “somebody else’s babies.”

None of this is likely to do much harm to King’s chances of winning reelection in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. Following the synagogue attack on Saturday, the Post’s Julie Zauzmer interviewed some of King’s constituents in the northwestern Iowa town of Remsen.

No one questioned whether their well-liked representative, Steve King — the U.S. congressman most openly affiliated with white nationalism — might be contributing to anti-Semitism or racism through his unapologetic embrace of white nationalist rhetoric and his praise of far-right politicians and groups in other nations.

Zauzmer found a few voters opposed to King, or willing to tolerate him for another term (“You have to take the good with the bad, right?” said Kelly Halsted, the economic development director for the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, who appreciates King’s ability to funnel federal dollars into the district), but the views she heard in Remsen were “prevalent across Iowa’s 4th District.”

King has led his Democratic challenger, J.D. Scholten, in both polls conducted in the district during the campaign, and according to the data journalism site 538, King has a 7-in-8 chance of winning reelection.

Speaking at a dinner celebrating the opening day of pheasant hunting in Akron, Iowa, King condemned the synagogue shooting. He also dismissed the idea that his statements or his embrace of the FPO and other far-right Europeans were problems.

“How do you call Steve King anti-Semitic?” King asked rhetorically, before launching into his planned pro-gun rights speech.

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