In a speech last week on the U.S. House floor, Iowa Congressman Steve King said he never was quoted using or defending the term “white nationalist” until a New York Times article was released that ultimately led to the loss of his committee assignments.
An interview with WHO-TV’s Dave Price that aired October 21, 2018, however, tells a different story.
In the interview, conducted about two months before the New York Times’ January 10, 2019 piece, Price asked the 4th District congressman to provide his definition of a “white nationalist.”
“Well, I’m not sure of that,” King replied. “First of all, I think they have to be white, but then we’ve got Rachel Dolezal that didn’t have to be black to be black. It is a derogatory term today — I wouldn’t have thought so a year or two or three ago — but today they use it in a derogatory term and it implies that you are a racist.”
Just before that question, King specifically mentioned “white nationalist” in reference to one of the terms the Des Moines Register used to describe Donald Trump (the relevant section starts at around 2:15 in the first clip).
“There’s this police action going on that once someone has been labeled by the left, then we’re all supposed to step away from them and shun them for whatever they might have said,” King said. “The Des Moines Register, for example, said that of the President of the United States in their endorsement of all Democrats here the other day, that he is a racist, he is a minsogynst, he’s divisive, he has committed – what was it – crudities, and I think there’s one more adjective I’ve forgotten – oh, yes – a white nationalist.”
His response to Price implied he did not believe the “white nationalist” phrase was offensive at some point, and it closely mirrors what Trip Gabriel of the New York Times would quote him saying a few months later.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said in the Times story.
Furthermore, King’s initial defense of himself on the House floor in January referred more to a “phrase” that was “taken out of context.”
It was not until March of this year that his staff put together a full memo that attempted to prove that King must have been misquoted. They claimed a Lexus-Nexis search showed that King had not used the term “white nationalist” until a Christian Science Monitor interview just before the Times piece that provided different context.
“The quote in the CSM is the FIRST DOCUMENTED INSTANCE of Steve King ever using the phrase ‘white nationalist,'” the King memo reads.
However, this is simply false. Not only did King clearly use the term “white nationalist” in his interview with Price, he also expressed disappointment that the phrase was being used today in a derogatory manner. A TV interview like that, where there wasn’t a full transcription online, may not have shown up in Lexus-Nexis search, but you can watch him say it.
Thursday night, King spoke for 30 minutes on the floor of the House of Representatives to defend himself, alleging he was misquoted by the Times reporter.
He referenced the “fact check” compiled in March by his staff, complete with charts highlighting the 276 times he was quoted in an eight-year period using the phrase “Western civilization.”
“Never, not one time was I quoted using either one of those terms that identify the odious ideologies in all of the Lexis-Nexis searches that were there,” King said Thursday, referencing the terms white nationalism and white supremacy. “It makes it implausible that, unless those terms were fed to me by the New York Times, it’s very unlikely that they would have ever been uttered in an interview.”
Though King is using his latest and most lasting controversy to deny support for racist ideologies, he has a well documented history of offensive behavior, as explored by the Des Moines Register in a 2018 article.
Among the highlights: displaying a Confederate flag on his desk in Congress; reportedly meeting with a political group in Europe founded by a former Nazi SS officer; questioning whether racial minorities have contributed to the advancement of civilization; and suggesting Muslim children prevented the restoration of “our civilization.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
Screenshot from WHO-TV’s The Insiders