There may be a reckoning for Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King following his, “white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” comments to The New York Times. King has tried to clarify the statements twice – once on Twitter and once on the House floor – saying he’s not a racist, rejecting white supremacy, and showing regret for the “heartburn” he caused.
It may not be enough for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The California Republican told CBS’ Face the Nation there will be some sort of action against King.
LEADER McCARTHY: I have a scheduled meeting with him on Monday, and I will tell you this: I’ve watched on the other side that they do not take action when their members say something like this. Action will be taken. I’m having a serious conversation with Congressman Steve King on his future and role in this Republican Party, because–
MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that mean?
LEADER McCARTHY: As a leader. There is a number of things you’ll see that is taking place, but I will not stand back as a leader of this party, believing in this nation that all are created equal, that that stands or continues to stand and have any role with us.
It’s a nice dig at the Democrats for their handling of the Keith Ellison sex assault allegations. It’s true he was cleared by the Minnesota DFL Party, but there are still questions regarding who ran the investigation and why police were hesitant to get involved.
The big question is what will the GOP do about the so-called “American nationalist” King? His denial of white supremacy will probably not be enough to quell the criticism. King has made multiple statements appearing to show his disdain for those who aren’t American – whether it’s a claim seemingly showing he sees immigrants as “dirt” and the 2013, “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes,” remark to Newsmax. He’s also supported Dutch politician Geert Wilders and endorsed failed Toronto mayoral candidate Faith Goldy – who may or may not be a white supremacist. Then there’s his possible involvement in the Volontaries pour la France movement (he’s one of the Volunteers of Honor). All are known for their desire to defend the rather vague ‘Western Civilization’ term, which may have as many definitions as the even vaguer ‘globalist’ term.
This is what McCarthy is facing when he meets with King tomorrow. King may make denial after denial after denial – but his past statements (from the recent past, not years ago) are extremely troublesome. He can claim the comments are in defense of American nationalism – but at what point does it cross the line into xenophobia and racism? King hasn’t broken any laws, so it’s doubtful he’ll be expelled from the House (expulsion may also set a dangerous precedent for future House members because it involves speech). He could be censured and/or reprimanded – which may be the farthest the House will go.
The ultimate decision will be made by voters in 2020. King has a primary challenger in state Senator Randy Feestra, but the latter faces a lot of hurdles because he’ll have to run an actual campaign (he’s never faced a primary or general election opponent). King scrimped by last November – so it might end up being his last hurrah in Congress. Whatever McCarthy decides could end up setting the tone for 2020 and whether King survives.