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Rep. Steve King Criticized For Tweet Supporting European Nationalist

Mar 13, 2017
Originally published on March 22, 2017 10:46 am
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Congressman Steve King continues to face criticism, including from members of his own party. Yesterday the Iowa Republican tweeted support for far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has called for banning the Quran. King tweeted, quote, "we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters reports on the fallout.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: Steve King has a long history being critical of immigration, and he represents a district where 95 percent of the residents are born in the United States. This morning, appearing on CNN's "New Day," King did not back away from his comments.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NEW DAY")

STEVE KING: I'd like to see an America that's just so homogenous that it - we look a lot the same from that perspective. I think there's been far too much focus on race, especially in the last eight years.

MASTERS: Meanwhile, David Duke, the former KKK grand wizard, is praising King on social media. These kinds of comments are nothing new for the Republican congressmen. This morning, a familiar ritual played out at Republican Governor Terry Branstad's weekly Monday morning press conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

TERRY BRANSTAD: Well, you know, Steve King is Steve King. So we all know that.

MASTERS: Branstad and many of Iowa's top Republicans regularly have to distance themselves from King's racially charged comments. He's spoken disparagingly of Mexican immigrants and Muslims. And in the opening days of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last summer, King was on an MSNBC panel discussing the racial makeup of his party. He told anchor Chris Hayes the whole old, white male business is a little tired.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KING: Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization...

CHRIS HAYES: Than white people?

KING: ...Than Western civilization itself that's rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America?

MASTERS: One Republican who has not criticized King yet - President Trump. When asked about King's remarks at the daily White House press briefing, Spokesman Sean Spicer said...

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

SEAN SPICER: I will definitely touch base with the president on that and get back to you on that.

MASTERS: King has a following with grassroots activists, and when he calls, Republicans come. The congressman held the opening GOP event for the first in the nation Iowa caucuses in 2015. Nearly every presidential hopeful at the time, including President Trump, accepted his invitation to speak. At today's press conference, Branstad tried to walk the line.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BRANSTAD: He, from time to time, says things that we just don't agree with, and we've always, you know, been honest about that. We've worked with him on a lot of things, and some of the things that he says we just think are wrong and we disagree with.

MASTERS: Branstad is waiting to be confirmed as President Trump's ambassador to China. That will make his lieutenant governor, Kim Reynolds, the next to lead Iowa. She followed Branstad's lead.

KIM REYNOLDS: I don't believe it's reflective of Iowans or Iowa values, so I - we disagree. I strongly disagree, and I do not believe that that is reflective of Iowans throughout the state.

MASTERS: King has represented a safely Republican district for 14 years and was re-elected last year with 61 percent of the vote. So don't expect controversies like these to end anytime soon. For NPR News, I'm Clay Masters in Des Moines.

(SOUNDBITE OF METAL FINGERS SONG, "COFFIN NAILS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.