Congressman Steve King used his opening statement during a recent debate in Spencer, Iowa, to rail against his fellow Republicans for failing to “defend” him against a 2019 New York Times article King blames for the primary challenges he is facing.
“They’re all here because they believe the New York Times,” King said, pointing to the four men seated behind him Monday night at a debate in Spencer. “They can’t have anything else going on or they wouldn’t be here, they would have defended me instead. But instead, they believe the New York Times, and they want you to believe the New York Times.”
King, running to secure a 10th term as Iowa’s 4th District congressman, faces four Republican challengers in the June 2 primary.
2019 proved to be a difficult year for the controversial King, who was stripped of his House committee assignments after he was quoted asking a Times’ reporter: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
Since the Jan. 10, 2019, article was published, King has maintained he was misquoted.
“No legitimate person believes the New York Times,” King said during the debate in Spencer. “That is why we have this primary right now, is because the New York Times has thrown a wrench into the works and political opportunists have decided that they want to jump into this thing hoping that I am wounded.”
He went on to liken the animosity against him to that of Michael Flynn, President Trump’s short-lived national security adviser, who in 2017 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian diplomat. Last week, Attorney General William Barr dropped the Justice Department’s criminal case against Flynn.
“The truth shall set you free,” King said. “And if you don’t think so, take a look at Gen. Michael Flynn. Michael Flynn went through a terrible, terrible ordeal for three years or more. He lost his hime, $6 million — but you know, the truth came out. The truth came out on me, too, it just hasn’t been exonerated yet. My time will come around.”
King was out-raised in the first three months of 2020 by state Sen. Randy Feenstra and dwarfed by Democrat J.D. Scholten, who brought in $339,579 compared to King’s $42,917. Public polling in the 4th District primary largely has come from surveys commissioned by Feenstra’s campaign. His latest, conducted by American Viewpoint, concluded the primary “is now a statistical tie.” The survey of 350 likely GOP voters shows King leading Feenstra 39% to 36%, within the 5.2% margin of error.
Bret Richards, an Army veteran and small business owner from Irwin, said he does not “believe” the Times’ article about King.
“I just think our Republic’s made better when we exercise our right to representation and have people run against each other,” Richards said. “It’s not necessarily a question about believing the New York Times, it’s just a matter of fact that we live in a Republic and our voters have choices.”
Jeremy Taylor, a former Woodbury County supervisor and small business owner from Sioux City, echoed Richards.
“I don’t believe the New York Times,” Taylor said. “I’m not in this for selfish ambition or selfish gain. I’m in this to help to restore, to our historic rights and values, that which we hold dearly and that which we prize in our Constitution so that our children, and our children’s children, recognize the country that we seek to leave to them.”
King closed his remarks in the debate the same way he opened. This time, however, he claimed to have “reached an agreement” with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy “that he would advocate to the steering committee to put all of my committees back with all of my seniority because there’s no argument against my fact-check document. I have disproven all of those allegations. They were false from the beginning.”
The congressman went on to say he “had Kevin McCarthy’s word” that when Congress is back in session and the “steering committee” is reconvened “that will be my time for exoneration.”
Wednesday night, a spokesperson for McCarthy told Starting Line “Congressman King’s past comments cannot be exonerated.”
“Committee assignments are determined by the steering committee,” the spokesperson said, “and he will have the opportunity to make his case.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
Iowa Starting Line is an independently-owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.
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