Rep. Steve King (R-IA) managed to hang onto his House seat after November’s midterm elections, despite the humiliation of having been stripped of his congressional committee seats amid controversy over his white nationalist views.
King made headlines again last week over a bizarre argument during a speech to supporters in which he asserted that rape and incest have been key to the survival of the human race. Laws against abortion, he argued, should therefore have should have no exceptions.
The remarks went viral and were roundly mocked, garnering condemnation even from the Republican leadership. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who holds the third highest position among House Republicans, wrote in a tweet on Wednesday that “it’s time for him to go.”
Today’s comments by @RepSteveKingIA are appalling and bizarre. As I’ve said before, it’s time for him to go. The people of Iowa’s 4th congressional district deserve better.
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) August 14, 2019
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the comments were not befitting of the office.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve had concerns of what Steve King has said. Earlier in this Congress, there are things that Steve King said that I do not believe the party of Lincoln would stand for,” Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox News.
“As a united conference, we actually removed Steve King from his committees inside Congress, and I think this just continues to show why that action was taken.”
Even President Donald Trump distanced himself from King, according to CNN.
“I don’t know the situation with Steve King,” Trump said Thursday. “I read a statement that supposedly he made. I haven’t been briefed on it. But certainly it wasn’t a very good statement.”
But Republicans have for years ignored calls for more stringent measures against King over his racist and xenophobic comments, such as censuring or removing him. Despite expressing exasperation, they appeared likely to give these latest remarks a pass as well.
His constituents, however, may not be so charitable.
Iowa voters are showing that they may finally have reached the last straw with the controversial congressman. King held a town hall on Saturday for voters in his congressional District. News reports said the event was attended by a grand total of two people. A viral tweet from a reporter at the event showed dozens of empty chairs as King addressed the two constituents, who were seated several rows apart.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) was among those taking delight at the paltry turnout.
“After Steve King’s comments re rape and incest this week, this is how many Iowans showed up at his town hall,” she wrote on Twitter, while expressing her support for J.D. Scholten, a Democrat who is challenging King for his seat.
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) August 18, 2019
Scholten also took aim at King for the remarks. King defeated Scholten in the 2018 congressional election, but came perilously close to losing, despite the fact that his congressional district, Iowa’s 4th, is a rock-ribbed Republican stronghold.
“It’s been another long week for Iowan’s. Enough is enough — it’s time to retire Steve King,” Scholten wrote on Twitter.
— J.D. Scholten (@JDScholten) August 16, 2019
Amid the firestorm, meanwhile, King complained that he had been misquoted in last week’s comments about rape and incest, despite video showing him making the controversial remarks.
“When we have a national, viral attack that comes down on a misquote, and it’s absolutely proven, all the folks that did that attack, I think they owe me an apology, including my own leadership,” he said during a different town hall forum after the controversy erupted. “I don’t think they’re going to do it because egos are a little strong in this business.”
The leading Republican challenger vying for King’s House seat, conservative Randy Feenstra, also lampooned the remarks as “bizarre,” precipitating a Twitter spat with the congressman.
Congressman, with all due respect, I am proud of my long record of actually passing pro-life legislation that has saved lives. Talk is cheap. Conservatives in Iowa and across America including @realdonaldtrump agree that your comments hurt our cause. #IA04 https://t.co/3hWz8S1OK1
— Randy Feenstra (@RandyFeenstra) August 16, 2019